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USA TODAY Op-Ed: Don’t Tax Olympians

Our bill passed the Senate without a dissenting vote, and is about as simple as they come.

August 19, 2016

It’s no secret that athletes don’t become Olympians overnight. For many of the competitors who’ve been fortunate enough to earn a spot on an Olympic or Paralympic podium, it’s a lifetime’s worth of work that has come with years of blood, sweat and tears.

It’s a patriotic endeavor that often has a large price tag affiliated with it, too.

All the equipment, gym time and training that help turn these men and women into Olympic heroes aren’t free, nor is there a tax benefit or write-off for the expenses of those who don’t earn income from their sport. Many young athletes rely on their parents and local communities to support their Olympic dreams, while others work day jobs and raise a family. These competitors and their dedication to their sport and country should be celebrated, not taxed.

Under the current tax code, medals and any associated prize stipend are considered taxable income.

Tax policy is too often complicated and partisan, which makes the bill we introduced this year unique. Our bill passed the Senate without a dissenting vote, and is about as simple as they come. The bill, which awaits action in the House, would bar the IRS from leveeing a victory tax on Olympic and Paralympic medalists.

Preventing the IRS from taxing medals and modest cash incentive prizes sends the right message to present and future members of Team USA: Rather than viewing Olympic success as another chance to pay Uncle Sam, it’s a special opportunity to celebrate American patriotism and the Olympic tradition.

While some pro athletes might return to their teams and sponsorships in the U.S. — income that our bill does not exempt — many medal-winning Olympians will return to being mom or dad, sister or brother, friend or neighbor and find a several-thousand dollar tax bill waiting for them, too.

Saying goodbye to this unpatriotic victory tax is something Republicans and Democrats can agree on, which doesn’t happen every day in Washington, and it’s something we think the American people would be proud to stand behind, too.