Attracting professional football players with low taxes

Winner bachelor’s thesis prize SBE fiscal economics: Kevin van Abswoude

26-04-2021

He wrote his bachelor’s thesis on professional football players moving to another country for its low tax rates. But in the next academic year, Kevin van Abswoude – now a master’s student of Tax Law – will likely move to Sweden: a country with relatively high taxes.

“I’m currently learning a lot about Dutch tax law”, says Van Abswoude. “In Sweden, I would like to study international and European rules.” Although he has never been to Sweden before, he has always felt a connection with the country. “I’m from Amstelveen, near Amsterdam, and I’ve been playing football since I was five years old. As a kid, I was a huge Ajax fan. My favourite player was Markus Rosenberg from Sweden. It’s also a large and beautiful country with only a few million inhabitants. There’s lots of open space and its language and culture are similar to ours. And this is silly, but I like the flag, haha.”

“When I went to university, I actually wanted to study Economics and Business Economics”, says Van Abswoude. But something went wrong in the enrolment process (his own fault), so he enrolled in Fiscal Economics instead. As the degrees have the same first-year programme, Van Abswoude figured he would just change his degree in the second year. But he didn’t have to; Fiscal Economics turned out to be a great choice for him.

As a huge football fan studying fiscal economics, it didn’t take him long to decide that he wanted his thesis to have something to do with taxes in the world of professional football. After discussing it with his supervisor, he ended up with the following research question: do professional football players move abroad if taxes are lower in another country? The lower the income taxes, the higher their net income, after all. The highest-paid professional football players who have their pick of clubs probably do so, says Van Abswoude. “But this certainly doesn’t apply to all professional football players.”

The subject was already extensively studied in 2013 (not at UM), says Van Abswoude. “That study used data from 1985 to 2008. A lot has changed since. I updated the research design.” Van Abswoude particularly saw room for improvement on the data side of things. More recent data need to be used, of course, but he also proposes to only look at the highest-paid professional football players rather than professional football as a whole. “You’re talking about a lot more money there. They have more to gain by moving.” He explains that he was allowed to submit a research proposal as a thesis because actually conducting the study would be too extensive.

He intended to delve deeper into the subject during his master’s degree in Fiscal Economics. But his plans changed. He exchanged the School of Business and Economics (SBE) for the Faculty of Law, where he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Tax Law. “I’m particularly interested in indirect taxes, and SBE doesn’t focus on them much. New VAT rules for distance sales will be introduced on 1 July. That’s what my master’s thesis will be about.”

His bachelor’s thesis was awarded with an 8.5 out of 10. It earned Van Abswoude a cash prize of 500 euros. What did he do with the money? “I heard that I’d won in November, just before Black Friday. I’d been looking for new headphones for a while and I had my eye on a 100-euro pair. When I heard that I’d won the prize, I picked out a better pair for 200 euros.”

Finally, would he ever move abroad for tax reasons? “I feel at home in the Netherlands. I wouldn’t move to Bermuda just because tax rates are lower there. It’s interesting for top earners. For anyone else, it’s no more than a bonus.”

Attracting professional football players with low taxes
Kevin van Abswoude