Government Oversight

A tax break for Olympic medalists?

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Three House Republicans have revived the idea of exempting from taxes all prize money won by U.S. athletes at the Olympic Games.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) on Tuesday proposed the Tax Exemptions for American Medalists (TEAM) Act, H.R. 3987. If enacted into law, it would allow U.S. athletes to return from this month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, without having to pay taxes on the thousands of dollars they’d earn from winning a gold, silver or bronze medal.

{mosads}The United States Olympic Committee awards U.S. athletes $25,000 for winning gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze, amounts that the committee has not increased for several years. These amounts, plus the value of the medals themselves, are taxable winnings under current law.

Farenthold’s bill says, “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.” That tax change would take effect starting this year.

The Sochi Olympics start this week, and the U.S. is likely to score dozens of medals. In the last winter games, in Vancouver, the U.S. won 37 medals, including 9 gold. The U.S. did better in the 2012 summer games in London, winning 104 medals and 46 golds.

Congress has flirted with the idea of exempting Olympic winnings from taxes before. In 2012, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) proposed a bill providing athletes with a tax exemption, but it never moved in the Senate.

“Our tax code is a complicated and burdensome mess that too often punishes success, and the tax imposed on Olympic medal winners is a classic example of this madness,” Rubio said then, during the 2012 Summer Olympics. “Athletes representing our nation overseas in the Olympics shouldn’t have to worry about an extra tax bill waiting for them back home.”

Americans for Tax Reform has argued in favor of a change to the tax code to exempt Olympic athletes. The group has estimated that winning the gold could result in a tax burden as high as $9,000.

Farenthold’s bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas). 

Tags Olympics tax U.S. Olympic Committee
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