Oregon’s Dem. Senator Ron Wyden has introduced a bill that would strip the PGA Tour’s tax-exempt status in the wake of its proposed merger with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf.
Sen. Wyden, the chair of the Senate finance committee, introduced two bills to address the issue on Wednesday: The Sports League Tax-Exempt Status Limitation Act and the Ending Tax Breaks for Massive Sovereign Wealth Funds Act.
Currently, the PGA Tour is a 501(c)(6) organization and is exempt from paying taxes on its profits. However, after the merger with LIV Golf, the new organization has been proposed as a for-profit venture. Wyden said that this being the case, Congress needs to act ahead of the finalization of the merger, according to Golfweek’s Cameron Jourdan.
“Most of America’s big pro sports leagues gave up their tax exemptions voluntarily when their revenues climbed into the stratosphere, and they hadn’t even shamed themselves with Saudi blood money,” Wyden said. “An organization that betrays its own word and agrees to become a profit generator for Saudi Arabia’s brutal regime has disqualified itself for a tax exemption.”
Wyden’s bills go further than simply stripping the PGA Tour of its taxing status. One bill would prevent exemptions for any sports league with assets exceeding $500 million, and the other would end tax exemptions for funds belonging to foreign countries with more than $100 billion invested globally.
“Many of the biggest sovereign wealth funds out there belong to countries that do not have our interests at heart, and there’s no good reason for hardworking American taxpayers to have to subsidize their huge profits,” Wyden added.
Wyden is also heading an investigation into the proposed merger between the PGA Tour and LIV, the latter of which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The proposed merger has elicited much criticism, especially considering the fact that the PGA Tour and its chief, Jay Monahan, spent months blasting LIV as “sportswashing” by attempting to smooth over Saudi human rights abuses by investing in sports globally.
Rep. John Garamendi (D, CA) also blasted the proposed merger using the “sportswashing” accusation.
“Saudi Arabia cannot be allowed to ‘sportswash’ its government’s horrific human rights abuses and the 2018 murder of American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi by taking over the PGA [Tour],” the California Democrat said in a statement in June.
“PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan should be ashamed of the blatant hypocrisy and about-face he and the rest of PGA’s leadership demonstrated by allowing the sovereign wealth fund of a foreign government with an unconscionable human rights record to take over an iconic American sports league and avoid paying a penny in federal corporate income tax,” Garamendi added. “This merger flies in the face of the PGA players who turned down hundred-million-dollar paydays from the Saudi-backed LIV to align themselves with the right side of history and human decency.”