Monday, 29 January 2007

Taxman grounds US space tripper

A US man who won a free trip to outer space in an online competition has had to cancel it, after realising he would have to pay tax on his prize.
Californian Brian Emmett, 31, who describes himself as a space buff, won the trip after correctly answering questions on Java computer code.
But he worked out would have to report the $138,000 ride as income and pay $25,000 tax, AP news agency reports.

Not wanting to go into debt, Mr Emmett decided to give up his seat.
''There was definitely a period of mourning. I was totally crestfallen'' he said. ''Everything you had hoped for as a kid sort of evaporates in front of you," he told AP.

Mr Emmett has already attended space camp and watched launches of the space shuttle from Kennedy Space Centre.
When he won the competition in 2005 he became a celebrity, giving TV interviews and appearing at trade shows on behalf of the company that organised the contest.
Space tourism has attracted lots of attention over the past few years. Very wealthy would-be astronauts have been putting down considerable deposits to experience viewing earth from many miles above ground.

But because America's Internal Revenue Service requires winnings from lotteries, TV shows and other competitions to be reported as taxable income, some tax experts believe space prizes will never take off in a big way.
Some competition organisers, though, provide the winner with a sum of money to cover the tax bill, a sum of money that is also taxable itself.

Mr Emmett's place will now be taken by another American. Two other winners, from Asia and Europe, are still on board.
They will all travel with Space Adventures Ltd., the firm that organises trips on Russian rockets to the orbiting International Space Station for the ultra-rich for a reported $20million.

The company says it has given away some 20 reservations through competitions and that the majority of winners are satisfied.