Indiana wants to give an Olympic champion a tax break

February 28, 2014

 Slopestyle skiing bronze medal winner Nicholas Goepper, right, with fellow Team USA winners, gold medalist Joss Christensen (C) and silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (L)EPA/Larry W. Smith

February was a great month for Nick Goepper. The 19-year old won a bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics in slopestyle skiing, and with it a $10,000 bonus from the U.S. Olympic committee.

When he returns home to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, he’ll also have a tax bill waiting for him — unless a proposal before the Indiana state legislature moves forward.

The Indiana House on Thursday voted to exempt Olympic medals and prize money from the state income tax, the Indianapolis Star reported. The bill, which would be retroactive to Jan. 1, would only apply to Goepper, Indiana’s lone medal winner in Sochi.

“We give hundreds of millions of dollars every year to people who come and ask for tax incentives,” state Rep. Terri Austin (D) told the Star. “We have one medalist. I hope we are going to get a chance to honor him before we leave this session.”

The measure was tacked on to a larger tax bill that passed Thursday. The House and Senate will meet in a conference committee in March to hammer out differences between their two versions, so Goepper will have to wait to see whether he’s off the hook.

Olympic medals and prize money are subject to federal taxes, ranging from $9,900 for a gold medal won by someone in the top tax bracket to $1,000 for a bronze won by someone who qualifies for the lower 10 percent tax bracket. On top of those federal taxes, most athletes will have to send a portion of their earnings to state tax authorities as well.

In Washington, Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) have all proposed legislation that would exempt Olympic winnings from taxes. President Obama supports exempting medals from federal income taxes, a White House spokesman said this month.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.
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