The Olympic Medal Tax Will No Longer Get The Gold

It looks like the media is going to have to invent one more controversy every two years, because they’ll have a hole in their schedule once the Olympic Medal Tax is repealed.

Here’s the deal: each Olympics, even that one that takes place in that white stuff that so many Texan tourists come here to Colorado to experience, the news outlets report that our patriotic, red-blooded American athletes who sacrificed so much to represent the country they love with every fiber of their being will have to cough up a portion of their winnings to Uncle Sam if they manage to get the Gold, Silver, or Bronze. The US Olympic athletes are taxed not only on the cash bonus they receive for winning, but also on the value of their medals.

This, they report, is a travesty, spitting on these exceptional Americans who represent the Red, White, and Blue.

I think that about conveys the tone of the reports. Maybe add in some stars and stripes in the background, add a picture of an athlete tearing up during the National Anthem, and we got us an article.

This is the closest I could get without paying for a picture

This is the closest I could get without paying for a picture

Thanks to HR 5946, known to the hanger-ons at Congress as the United States Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympians Bill of 2016 (USAOPB. . .no cool acronym here, I’m sad to say), gross income “shall no longer include any medals awarded in, or prize money received from the United States Olympic Committee on account of, competition in the Olympic Games of Paralympic Games.” So if you come up with the Gold in Rowing or Curling, you’ll get to keep the whole kit and caboodle.

There is a bit of good news-bad news to this law. The good news is that Congress traveled back in time to make this bill effective as of December 31, 2015, so the 2016 Summer Olympic winners won’t have to pay the Olympic Medal Tax. The bad news is that it doesn’t apply for athletes who made over $1 million in the year, so Michael Phelps is likely out of luck with this boon.

Since my interest in the Olympics waned somewhere around 1996, I’m a bit indifferent to the law. Taxing the medals is kind of a douchy move, but I feel that way any time the government taxes something illiquid. Still, the medals themselves are only worth about $500 for the “gold” (actually made mostly of silver), so we’re not talking about a ton of tax on the medals themselves–well, unless you’re at the Michael Phelps level of Gold Medal winning. It’s the cash prizes the US Olympic Committee hands out that has the real tax consequences: $25k of income for gold, $15k for silver, and $10k for bronze. I’m not saying it’s totally cool for the government to potentially take nearly half of that in taxes, but taxing income, no matter the source, is kind of the modus operandi of the income tax.

Whatever. Congress can pat themselves on the back for agreeing on something (the bill passed the House 415-to-James Himes of Connecticut)–assuming President Obama makes good on his hints that he’ll pass the law–and the co-sponsors of the bill can add something to their resume.

It’s really the news outlets that are in a bind. They’ll have to figure something else to cover during that 15 seconds of air time. Maybe the taxes on the athletes’ Wheaties box art? That should fill at least a few seconds of that hole.