bill-swift - August 7, 2012
The Olympics are the epitome of athletic competition; the pinnacle to which every athlete dreams of reaching. No other competition grasps the attention of the world let along involve the world quite like the Olympics. Just being chosen to compete in the games is an honor; winning is a privilege.
For Olympians from the United States that privilege comes with a bill.
Come April 15 of next year folks like Missy Franklin, Gabby Douglas, Ryan Loche, and Michael Phelps are going to owe the U.S. government a pretty good chunk of change. As it turns out, for every medal that they win they get a little more than just the pride that comes with a job well done. They get paid.
Each country's respective Olympic committee has the option to give an award to athletes that medal if it so chooses, and many of them do. Singapore actually offers its athletes $800,000 for winning a gold medal (they have one bronze so far); Great Britain, on the other hand, gives them nothing.
The U.S. is on the lower end of the spectrum. For each gold medal won an athlete is awarded $25,000, silvers are worth $15,000, and a bronze medal$10,000.
And the government wants its cut. Yes, the U.S. government views these awards as income and will require that each athlete claims their awards on their next tax return.
This will mean little to guys like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Michael Phelps; guys that already get paid for doing what they do or bank in endorsements (like Phelps). For folks like Ryan Loche and high school age kids like Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin the price tag is pretty substantial.
Franklin's haul of four golds and a bronze will cost her somewhere in the vicinity of $40,000!
The argument on whether they should or should not have to pay has some good points on both sides. While Franklin's 40K is a hefty bill, her total award of $110,000 is more than enough to cover it. With Michael Phelps retiring from competitive swimming companies will likely be looking to pay the fresh-faced 17-year old world champion a pretty penny to endorse their products.
So since she is making a lot of money and will likely make more why shouldn't she pay taxes? At the same time, what about guys like Vincent Hancock (gold medal in skeet shooting) who probably will not get any endorsements?
On the other hand, not every athlete is going to get paid like Missy Franklin likely will. The award itself is still more than sufficient to cover the tax bill, but since these athletes have dedicated much of their lives to their sport and representing their country don't they deserve the full reward?