Tax officials in Finland are allegedly sending letters to poker players in the country asking them to declare their winnings from both online and land-based games for the previous five years.
According to a report from the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, the request applies to winnings earned outside the European Economic Area (EEA), which consists of 30 nations including Finland, as prizes earned inside the bloc are tax-free.
The publication quoted Raimo Kinnunen, a top official for the Finnish tax administration, and Taneli Lallukka, the head tax expert for the Tax Office of the greater Helsinki area, as estimating that at least a few dozen letters had been sent to players.
Mikko Hirvonen, Chairman for the Finnish Poker Players’ Association, stated that the vagueness of the request combined with the short timetable put forward has raised numerous questions among players. Many players, who, according to Kinnunen, had their names collected largely from winners’ lists on the Internet and in poker publications, only received their letter last week while the deadline for a reply is mid-August.
In addition, questions remain as to whether it is sufficient for tax-free status if the organiser of a poker tournament is registered in an EEA country or if the application for the licence for the tournament needs to have been made in the EEA as well. Lallukka stated that the matter is open to interpretation as there are no legal precedents but, at present, the deciding factor should be where the organiser of the game is registered.
Another thorny issue could be when do players have the right to deduct gambling losses from their taxes. Lallukka revealed that full-time players could deduct only those losses incurred in games played outside the EEA from winnings earned outside the EEA while recreational players could only deduct their participation fees.