Inquirer Editorial: Olympians don't need a medals-tax deduction

Allyson Felix kisses her 200-meter run gold medal.
Allyson Felix kisses her 200-meter run gold medal. (MATT SLOCUM / Associated Press)
Posted: August 12, 2012

Just imagine it - taxing an American athlete's gold medal! Why, it's almost like taxing Mom, apple pie, home ownership, and monogamy.

Sure, a hard-bitten pragmatist might point out that moms, apple pies, home ownership, and monogamy are frequently if not usually subject to taxes in the United States. But apparently no amount of pragmatism is getting in the way of the drive to pass a tax break for our Olympic medalists.

Last month, the group Americans for Tax Reform pointed out that Olympic medals and their accompanying cash honoraria - $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, $10,000 for bronze - can (like most other forms of income) incur taxes. In the case of a gold medal, the group noted, Uncle Sam could take up to about $9,000.

That, however, assumes a top tax rate of 35 percent, which many Olympic athletes won't face, as the website PolitiFact noted. Moreover, deductions for training and other expenses could reduce or even eliminate the tax on a medal.

But why waste time on the details when you could introduce pointless legislation to score political points and further complicate the tax code? That seems to be the rationale behind the Tax Exemptions for American Medalists (TEAM, get it?) Act introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.). A spokesman has already promised President Obama's support, and lawmakers in Trenton and other state capitals have proposed their own versions.

Of course, the tax on medals and any exemption from it are all but irrelevant. The intent here is to find the most allegedly outrageous tax imaginable in order to heap derision on the very idea of taxation. This only serves to distract from any constructive policy-making - at least until we forget about it, and the Olympics, later this week.

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