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House Panel to Consider Tax Exemption for Olympic Medal Winners

Ways and Means Committee will mark up bill in September

A Brazilian soldier keeps watch in front of the Olympic beach volleyball stadium in Rio de Janeiro. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A Brazilian soldier keeps watch in front of the Olympic beach volleyball stadium in Rio de Janeiro. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up a bill in September that would provide a tax exemption for Olympic athletes who won medals or other prizes at the games in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Reps. Robert J. Dold of Illinois and Blake Farenthold of Texas, is the House companion measure to a bill the Senate passed earlier this year. 

Olympic medals and accompanying cash prizes are subject to taxes under current law. The U.S. Olympic Committee awards $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative advocacy group, estimates gold medalists would owe $9,900 under the top individual tax rate.

The 2016 Summer Games, currently underway, will be complete by the time Congress returns in September to take up the legislation. As of Monday afternoon, athletes representing the United States have won a total of 72 medals — 26 gold, 22 silver and 24 bronze. 

[Bill to Remove Tax on Olympic Medals a D.C. Tradition]

The bill would also apply the tax exemption for athletes competing in the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro September 7-18.

“Our Olympic and Paralympic athletes make numerous personal sacrifices while training to represent the United States on the global stage,” Dold said in a statement. “But when they return home with a medal for Team USA, the IRS forces the athletes to pay a penalty for their success.”

Farenthold added that Olympic athletes often earn very little money during years of training for the games and that taxing them for their success is unfair. “This tax illustrates how complicated and burdensome the tax code is. While we need to make it more fair and less burdensome for all, I think this is a good way to start,” he said in a statement. 

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas said his panel will take up the bill in September. “It seems like a small thing, but when America’s Olympians and Paralympians bring home the gold, our nation should congratulate them — not send the IRS to claim a share of their medal,” he said in a statement. 

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