Calls Are Growing Louder to End Taxation on Olympic Medals

August 15, 2016, 2:04 PM UTC

The calls for tax relief for U.S. Olympic medal earners became louder this week as more Americans realize how little most Olympic athletes earn and how much they’re forced to give back to their country.

In July, the U.S. Senate passed South Dakota Sen. John Thune’s Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympians Act. A similar bill was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio in 2012. A House version of the measure sponsored by Texas Republican Blake Farenthold remains under review with the Ways and Means committee.

“We’re hoping to make a push for this when we come back to session, but there’s no floor schedule yet,” Farenthold’s communications director Elizabeth Peace tells Fortune.

Earlier this month, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer called on Congress to pass the proposed bill so President Obama, who also supports Olympic tax relief, can sign it into law.

“Our Olympian and Paralympic athletes should be worried about breaking world records, not breaking the bank, when they earn a medal,” Schumer said in an August press release. “Most countries subsidize their athletes. The very least we can do is make sure our athletes don’t get hit with a tax bill for winning.”


Most of America’s Rio competitors will not bring home a medal this month. For the few that do, the U.S. Olympic Committee will pay them $25,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver one, and $10,000 for a bronze. A portion of that money is paid to the IRS—a maximum of $9,900 per gold medal, $5,940 per silver medal, and $3,960 per bronze medal depending on each athletes’ individual tax circumstances, according to the non-profit group Americans For Tax Reform.

What’s more, even the metal in their medals are taxed, at a value of up to $501 for gold medals and $300 for silver. (A Bronze medal’s value doesn’t amount to much.)

Training and expense costs are tax deductible for Olympians but most Olympic competitors spend years working regular jobs or going to school while enduring grueling practice sessions that push bodies to their breaking points.

Research conducted by the U.S. Track and Field Association in 2012 found that half of the nation’s top 10 track athletes earn less than $15,000 a year from their sport and most outside the top 10 get little to no money at all for competing, CNN Money reports.

Yet their work every four years generates millions of dollars for marketers and TV networks across the globe, bringing them fleeting fame, but rarely fortune, as they honor their native land and achieve athletic excellence.