Bills would make Olympic medals tax exempt

August 2, 2012

U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps kisses his gold medal after the ceremony for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final Tuesday. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

After winning gold in London, an Olympic athlete also stands to earn a $25,000 honorarium. Silver medalists receive $15,000 and bronze medalists are slated to leave London with a $10,000 payday. Current U.S. tax law requires athletes to add the value of medals and honorariums to their taxable income — just as any winning game show contestant would have to pay taxes on a new car or toaster oven.

But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) introduced legislation Wednesday that would exempt American medal-winning gymnasts, rhythmic gymnasts, swimmers, divers, synchronized divers, runners, cyclists or water polo players from paying taxes on their Olympic winnings.

Farenthold, who calls his bill the Tax Exemptions for American Medalists Act — or TEAM Act — said his measure “will remove another needless tax on the exceptional American athletes who represent our nation on the world’s stage. Our Olympic athletes embody the American spirit and give hope to all who watch them compete on behalf of the red, white and blue.”

In touting his Olympic Tax Elimination Act, Rubio called the tax code “a complicated and burdensome mess that too often punishes success.” He said imposing taxes on Olympic athletes “is a classic example of this madness” and that they “shouldn’t have to worry about an extra tax bill waiting for them back home.”

The legislation comes in response to a study by Americans for Tax Reform, led by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, that estimated that Americans medal winners would face a top income tax rate of 35 percent. The rate was calculated by adding the honorarium to the estimated price of the medal. Current commodity prices value a gold medal at roughly $675, a silver medal at about $382 and a bronze medal at under $5, according to ATR.

While the bills may earn favorable political support, the legislation won’t be considered until after the month-long August recess, long after most Americans stop caring about the Olympics.

And remember — any medal-earning athlete who scores an endorsement deal will still need to pay taxes on those earnings.

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Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Read more at PostPolitics

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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