Isakson seeks tax break for Olympians

Reese Hoffa, bronze medalist from Columbia County

 

MARIETTA, Ga. -- On the day the Olympic athletes were catching flights back to the United States with their haul of 104 medals, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson says the tax man shouldn’t greet them when they land.

The Georgia Republican said Monday he co-sponsored legislation to exempt from income taxes the cash prize medalists win.

“I had no idea we taxed medalists,” he said during an interview with Morris News Service. “Nobody I knew realized we did it.”

For athletes who sacrificed their carefree youth to practice, train and compete as representatives of their country, there should be some allowances not available for professional athletes or other forms of income, according to Isakson.

“I think most people realize the Olympics is a point of national pride,” he said.

Favored treatment for what could be called national, sports infrastructure is not very different from the tax-exempt interest paid by government bonds used to finance physical infrastructure like water and sewer lines, he said.

The United States won the most medals at this year’s Summer Games in London, and the individuals collecting the most were American swimmers Michael Phelps with four gold and two silver, and Missy Franklin with four gold and one bronze.

Those two could sign multimillion-dollar endorsement deals, dwarfing the impact of the tax. But Franklin, who’s a 17-year-old, could chose to remain an amateur so she can compete in college, meaning she’d be stuck with the tax. Winners of sports less in the spotlight, like shooting, may not be offered lucrative endorsements.

The medals are only 1 percent precious metal, so their value isn’t going to add much to tax debts, but each is accompanied by a cash prize of $25,000 for every gold, $15,000 for silvers and $10,000 for a bronze.

Isakson is cosponsoring legislation by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that President Barack Obama announced he will support.

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