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Hail The Champions

August 23, 2016
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

I have to admit, at first, I?wasn't going to watch much of the Olympic coverage when the games in Rio began. I was keeping abreast of how the American athletes were doing from radio sports, updates on the Internet, etc.

But then Michael Phelps started dominating the swimming competition along with Katie Ledecky. I tuned in at home a few evenings to watch Phelps leave his competitors in his wake, and enjoyed watching Ledecky set a new word record in huge fashion.

Watching these talented athletes receive their gold medals instills a certain sense of pride, no matter who yoou are.

However, it seems Uncle Sam, ie: the Internal Revenue Service, is waiting back here at home with palms outstretched to get their share of the glory.

Yes, if you work as hard as you can, get to the Olympics and win a medal gold, silver or bronze, you return to the United States owing taxes on your medal.

"Thank you for your hard work, that will be 30-plus percent tax. Will that be cash or charge?"

I came across an explanationi on the Western Journalism website over the weekend that explains this fiasco.

The federal government is giving "going for the gold" a whole new meaning.

Many of America's athletes who win Olympic gold, thus receiving a $25,000 check from the U.S. Olympic Committee, will be required to pay more than a third of that straight to the Internal Revenue Service.

For example, swimmer Michael Phelps has won three gold medals, and would be scheduled to receive $75,000.

However, since he is most likely in the top tax bracket, the IRS will claim 39.6 percent of his winnings, or about $29,000.

The so-called "victory tax" has been opposed in Congress, but so far the bill to make Olympic prizes tax free has not passed Congress.

"Our Olympian and Paralympic athletes should be worried about breaking world records, not breaking the bank, when they earn a medal," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer said that the global compensation field should be level.

"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. After a successful and hard fought victory, it's just not right for the U.S. to welcome these athletes home with a tax on that victory," he said.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who has co-sponsored the proposal with Schumer, said Olympic athletes have earned a reward.

"These Olympians, who often become role models for younger athletes across the country, dedicate years of their life and own money representing the United States on the world stage. The least we can do in return for these athletes' commitment and patriotism is to allow them to keep what they've earned during the Olympic Games," Thune said.

The U.S. Olympic Committee gives out money for all medal winners. It gives $25,000 to gold medal winners, $15,000 to silver medalists and $10,000 to bronze medalists.

Some athletes also receive additional prizes. For example, the U.S. Wrestling Foundation gives medalists $250,000 for gold, $50,000 for silver and $25,000 for bronze.

However, the U.S. still is behind some other nations. The nation of Azerbaijan pays its gold medalists $510,000.

Olympians themselves have said they would appreciate elimination of the victory tax.

"In no way do we think we are under-appreciated, but it goes a long way for us," said Andrew Weibrecht, who won a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Games. "A lot of us have families, and this is our living."



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