The House Ways and Means Committee is set to mark up in September legislation that would exempt from taxation the prizes awarded to Olympic and Paralympic athletes after the bill won the endorsement from two taxwriters.
"It seems like a small thing, but when America's Olympians and Paralympians bring home the gold, our nation should congratulate them -- not send the IRS to claim a share of their medal," Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said in an August 15 release announcing his support for the United States Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympians Act .
The new bill mirrors a companion measure that the Senate passed July 12 by unanimous consent (S. 2650 ). The legislation aims to exclude from gross income "the value of any medal awarded in, or any prize money received from the United States Olympic Committee on account of, competition in the Olympic Games or Paralympic Games." (Prior coverage .)
Ways and Means Committee member Robert J. Dold, R-Ill., cosponsored the bill with Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, who has introduced past versions of the proposal, including last year's Tax Exemptions for American Medalists (TEAM) Act (H.R. 2628 ). Dold's congressional district is home to five athletes competing in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, according to a release introducing the new legislation.
"Our bill will prevent the IRS from penalizing Team USA's champions and ensure that our athletes can remain focused on fulfilling their Olympic dreams without fear of the tax consequences," Dold said in the release. The new development follows an August 2 plea from Senate Finance Committee member Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to move the measure in the House. Schumer, who introduced S. 2620 in March with fellow taxwriter John Thune, R-S.D., made the push before the start of the 2016 Olympics, which run from August 5 to August 21.
While the bill has patriotic intentions, Romone Penny of consulting firm Pursuit Sports Group said the proposed tax exemption may not be enough to financially support smaller-market athletes who do not receive million-dollar contracts in professional leagues such as the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
Penny, a former college athlete, said he likes the idea of the federal government assisting with some of those athletes' costs. Other countries such as Croatia and Italy financially support their Olympians, he said, so "I do not see why we cannot mimic them in that regard to some degree."
"For example, compare a women's volleyball player or men's handball player to an [NBA] player. If the volleyball player or handball player does not win a medal, then this bill does not go far enough to financially support them," Penny said, adding that the discrepancy between the different kinds of athletes "may be the next battle after getting tax-exempt status for Olympic medal winners."