Should US Olympians Pay Taxes on Medals?

Feb 7, 2014 12:10pm

If paying taxes is considered patriotic, then paying taxes on an Olympic medal must be the ultimate display of pride for the Red, White and Blue.

But some members of Congress don’t believe U.S. Olympians should have to fork over a portion of their winnings to the Internal Revenue Service.

The U.S. Olympic Committee awards its athletes $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.  And it’s all considered taxable income.

As the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games begin, Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, reintroduced the Tax Exemptions for American Medalists, known as the TEAM Act, which exempts U.S. Olympic athletes from paying taxes on any medals and prizes they win.

At the height of the 2012 presidential campaign, a similar effort was pushed by Sen. Marco Rubio and supported by Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

On the stump that summer, President Obama remarked that it was “patriotic” for wealthy Americans to pay more in taxes, but he too quickly joined the bandwagon and signaled support for Rubio’s pitch.

“He supports that bill,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. “If it were to get to his desk he would support it.”

But the legislation never reached the president’s desk. With only seven Senate cosponsors, it never even came up for a vote.

Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform have calculated the federal income tax that medal winners could potentially face, though the precise tax burden would vary depending on the commodity value of the precious metals and which marginal income tax bracket the athlete finds himself in for 2014.

The United States won more medals than any other country during the London Games, with 46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze, likely pocketing more than $650,000 for the IRS if athletes paid a 35 percent chunk to Uncle Sam.

Farenthold’s bill has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee, but there is no timeline yet for it to come to the floor for consideration.

“This needless tax illustrates how complicated and burdensome our tax code has become,” Farenthold said. “We need a fairer system for all, and eliminating this unnecessary tax burden on our athletes is a good way to start.”

 

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