Taxing Sochi Medal Winners

Here we go again. Members of Congress going for the gold medal in public relations rather than sound lawmaking. Some lawmakers are trying to make the tax code even more complicated -- and favor an elite group of people.

A bill has been introduced in the House that would exempt Olympic athletes from paying taxes on the income they receive for winning a medal in the Sochi Winter Games, reports Pete Kasperowicz for The Hill blog Floor Action. According to the report, the bill says that “gross income shall not include the value of any medal awarded in, or any prize money received from the United States Olympic Committee on account of, competition in the Olympic Games.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee awards U.S. athletes $25,000 for winning a gold metal, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.

White House spokesman Bobby Whithorne told Yahoo News that President Obama is keen on the idea. “The president believes we should support efforts to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to honor and support our Olympic athletes who have volunteered to represent our nation at the Olympic Games,” Yahoo News reported.

I appreciate that Olympic athletes train hard for years and bring honor to our country when they win and even when they don’t. They should be recognized for their efforts -- but with a tax break on their earnings? If that’s the case – that we’re going to use the tax code to celebrate folks’ efforts -- why not waive income taxes for teachers, or for the men and women who police our streets, serve in the military or fight fires – all for the public good? Don’t they deserve a break, too, if we’re just going to hand out tax breaks?

Color of Money Question of the Week

Should Olympic medalists have to pay taxes on their prize money? Send your response to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Taxing Sochi Medal Winners” in the subject line, and include your full name, city and state.

Live Chat Today

Join me today at noon ET for a live discussion about personal finance.

I will be available to take your questions, or we can discuss and debate the latest financial news.

Tax Refund Plans

More Americans plan to save their tax refunds this year, according to a recent Fidelity Investments survey. Forty-six percent of survey participants said they plan to save their refund, and 33 percent said they will use it to pay down debt.

The average refund as of Feb. 7 is $3,317, up 4.6 percent compared with the same time last year, according to the IRS. The agency says typically the average is higher early in the filing season.

Free Retirement Advice

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, whose members are fee-only advisers, will be offering free retirement advice today, Feb. 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information or to submit a question click here .

ISO Date With High Credit Score

One online dating site has found a different hook to help people make a love connection. They match people looking for credit score compatibility.

As part of the membership sign-up for CreditScoreDating.com, people self-report their credit score range.

Yes, money matters in a relationship. But when you’re just starting to date someone, it’s none of your business what credit scores that person has. It’s not information you should be sharing early in a relationship. Besides, people can have low scores for any number of good reasons, not just because they’re poor money managers. And just because someone has a high credit score doesn’t mean he or she will be a good mate.

You ought to be searching for someone with similar financial values instead.

Your Money, Your Honey

Last week, I talked about a survey that found two-thirds of Americans who are dating or single say they are unwilling to date or marry someone who has significant debt. When it comes to talking money, nearly one-third of people in the survey said the three-month dating mark is the right time. But 29 percent said it’s fine to talk about finances right away.

So for last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “How long into a relationship before a couple should get intimate about their finances?”

“My opinion is that finances become fair game for serious discussion the first time either party brings up the idea of jointly-held property or debt obligations, be that a simple checking account or a more substantial financial obligation like a jointly-held lease, credit card, or home and its attached mortgage,” wrote Thomas J. Druitt of Paducah, Ky.

Hank Parker of Hanover, N.H., wrote, “I believe that a discussion of money needs to take place when there is an engagement, the time when both are serious about planning for the future. A couples’ future security will depend on shared values of handling money and assets.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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