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Isildur1 Takes On The Swedish Tax Man
Since 2006 Skatteverket – Sweden’s equivalent of the IRS – has been targeting online poker players who live in Sweden but play on sites outside of the European Union to try and recoup unreported taxes.
One of the prime targets these days, according to several Swedish news reports, is famed online poker phenom Viktor “Isildur1” Blom, who has reportedly accrued tax liabilities of up to $150 million from his well-documented high-stakes cash games on Full Tilt Poker.
In an interview with PokerListings, however, Dag Hardyson, National Project Manager for Skatteverket, wouldn’t reveal if Blom is under investigation.
“We don’t comment on any individual cases,” Hardyson said. “Either if there is an ongoing investigation or whether we intend to launch an investigation.”
He is, however, fully aware of who Blom is.
“I was asked by another reporter and I said it’s like going to a sports editor and asking if they know about Zlatan (Ibrahimovic – Sweden’s most famous soccer player),” he said. “But perhaps I shouldn’t have said that, I can’t speak at all about individuals.”
Poker is classed as a lottery in Sweden and profits made from sites that operate outside the EU/EEA are technically subject to 30% tax. Each pot is treated individually, so every pot you win is ostensibly like winning a lottery.
The catch is that you can’t deduct your losses - only a small deduction of your original investment in the pot (capped at around $15) for “operating costs.”
Based on an estimate of the total amount of all pots he played, Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri says Blom’s tax liability would be up to $150 million from his games on Full Tilt alone.
Despite Full Tilt being at least partially based in Ireland, Hardyson says it technically still falls under the taxable jurisdictions of either Aruba or Alderney.
“It is our opinion that Full Tilt Poker is outside the EU/EEA," says Hardyson.
Hardyson also says Skatteverket has the ability to make accurate assessments when it comes to a poker player's winnings.
“I can’t comment directly on Full Tilt, but overall it has become easier and easier to produce data on sites that operate in these types of tax havens,” he said. “More and more tax havens are falling down right now and they want to sign agreements with the EU and the U.S. for greater transparency.”
Blom is believed to have moved to London, UK to avoid the Swedish tax situation, but Hardyson says that won't likely help.
“It is still taxable for the years it was accrued in Sweden and we do what we can to recover the debt,” he said. “If one moved, for example, to England or Spain, we have reasonable capability to do that. But exactly how it works, I can’t speak about. It's not my piece.”
A collection of $150 million from Viktor Blom, though, might be the crowning glory of Skatteverket’s drive to track down unpaid taxes from poker players.
“We have been working on this for quite some time and you have to say that we have been successful. It has brought in a lot of money,” Hardyson said.
“But I would also add that many poker players themselves report their incomes, and often quite substantial sums. This isn’t mentioned very often in the press and it doesn’t strike me as fair to poker players.
“But if they report just net profits or all individual pots, I don’t know.”