Win Gold at the Olympics and Pay Taxes Like Everyone Else

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About John Dwyer

John Dwyer is the co-editor for The Strip (adult language but SFW). Learn more about him on his website or contact him through email, Google, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. I think it’s worth pointing out that not every Olympic athlete gets what Americans consider to be professional-level endorsements, and have to incur significant expenses to participate. Take athletes in less popular sports, like women’s weightlifting, or pretty much any Paralympic event. I have a friend who’s a Paralympic powerlifter on her fourth trip to the Paralympics. She doesn’t get corporate sponsorships. This is the first time she hasn’t had to pay for her uniforms, and she needs three – one for opening ceremonies, one for closing ceremonies, and one for competition (incidentally, for all the crap they took about where the uniforms we’re made, Ralph Lauren is the only reason she didn’t have to pay for her uniforms this year – previous designers didn’t pay for Paralympic uniforms). This is on top of the gym time, needing to pay a spotter and athletic trainer with *very* specific skills, and transportation to and from events. AND her ability to get a well-paying job is limited by her physical condition. I don’t know details, but I’m guessing that unless she wins gold (and possibly even then), she will not be paying taxes on her medal and prize money – that income will be offset by all the financial losses she’s incurred to get to London in the first place. And she doesn’t even need to buy specialized equipment to participate in her sport at all (if you watch Murderball, you may notice that you need to pay $3,000 for a special wheelchair before you can even start trying to play wheelchair rugby, and some wheelchair basketball players pay around $15,000 for their chairs – that’s the silver medal prize gone before tryouts). If you aren’t in a high-profile sport (and given that NBC won’t be broadcasting the Paralympics at all, it isn’t one here, and some Olympic sports get similar low-profile status), being an Olympic athlete is not a profitable endeavor. I wonder if ATR is calculating their tax figures counting all those expenses. I’m guessing not.

  2. John Dwyer says:

    That’s a really good point. I wanted to go into how the calculations are actually really complex here. You can’t just say, well all athletes are paying $9,000 in the U.S. for winning, and nothing elsewhere. Income tax has exemptions available to people depending on how they handle their athletic side, whether or not they set themselves up as a business, what expenses can be deducted for that, or for health reasons, or many many other factors. Then you’re also right to say that the expenses to just enter and try out exist, and also differ depending on your sport. The ATR’s report is an over-simplified sham.

  3. Great investigative number work right there. I find in most things (the DOJ muffin story comes to mind), that if the numbers don’t sound right, they’re probably not true.

  4. Peter Houlihan says:

    Does a medal really count as “income”? It’s not like they can spend it or sell it.

    • John Dwyer says:

      Actually you’re completely right on this point. Salon put up a piece (after us here at GMP!) that says mostly exactly what I said, and adds a little investigation which turns up that according to the USOC, the medals technically have no value:

      http://www.salon.com/2012/08/02/romneys_olympic_tax_myth/

      I believe most of the athletes would agree that a gold medal is invaluable and much more than the sum of its parts.

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