House Passes Tax Relief for Olympic Medalists

The House voted to eliminate taxes on the medals of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, while also passing some other pieces of tax legislation.

The legislation on exempting medalists, known as the United States Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympians Act (H.R. 5946), was sponsored by Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill. The bill passed Thursday with nearly unanimous bipartisan support, by a margin of 415 to 1. The bill would eliminate a tax imposed on medals or other prizes awarded to Team USA athletes during the Olympic and Paralympic games.

The U.S. Olympic Committee awards cash prizes to medal winners—$25,000 for gold medalists, $15,000 for silver medalists and $10,000 for bronze medalists—and those have traditionally been subject to taxes. The IRS considers the money to be income earned abroad, and the monetary value of the medal is also taxable. ‎Senators Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John Thune, R-S.D., introduced a similar bill in the Senate, which passed unanimously earlier this year (see Schumer Proposes to Exempt Olympic Medals from Taxes). The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

"Our Olympic and Paralympic athletes make numerous personal sacrifices while training to represent the United States on the global stage, and they often get little or no financial help for their training," Dold said in a statement. "The vast majority of Olympic and Paralympic athletes will never sign an endorsement deal or get paid millions of dollars to compete—they're school teachers, full–time students, retail workers and more. But when they return home with a medal for Team USA, the IRS forces our Olympic and Paralympic champions to pay a penalty for their success. Our bipartisan bill ensures that these athletes can remain focused on fulfilling their Olympic and Paralympic dreams without the fear of getting a huge tax bill in the mail."

Another bill passed this week in the House is the Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act (H.R. 5523), sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. The bill would protect small business owners from IRS abuse to help ensure their assets are not wrongly seized. The bill passed on a unanimous vote of 415-0 on Thursday. The bill was named after Andrew Clyde; Jeffrey, Richard and Mitch Hirsch; and Randy Sowers, small business owners whose assets had been seized by the IRS under civil asset forfeiture laws (see Congress Holds Hearing on IRS 'Abuse').

“Today we took a big step toward delivering justice for victims of IRS abuse,” Roskam said in a statement. “It’s clear to everyone involved that the IRS and DOJ abused their authority and took money from people who did nothing wrong. With today’s legislation, we’re making sure they can never do it again.”

Crowley also praised passage of the legislation. “Civil asset forfeiture might have started out as a way to combat criminal activity but it has morphed into a complicated process that unfairly entangles innocent people,” he said. “There is no question that the laws were deeply flawed and the process was riddled with abuse. I was proud to work with Congressman Roskam on this legislation, and I’m pleased that we are one step closer to it becoming a reality.”

Senators Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have introduced companion legislation and expect the Senate to pass the measure in the near future.

Another piece of legislation passed this week was the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act (H.R. 3957), sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. The bill would help citrus growers recover from a crippling crop disease by addressing the tax treatment of costs associated with replanting the crops that were harmed. “Help for Florida orange farmers is a major step closer to arriving,” Buchanan said in a statement. “This bill will go a long way toward protecting the livelihoods of the 62,000 hardworking Floridians in our signature citrus industry. The story of American agriculture is one of resilience and hard work against tremendous odds. Citrus farmers are being hit hard and Congress needs to help them recover.”

Another bill passed by the House this week was the Empowering Employees through Stock Ownership Act (H.R. 5719). The House voted 287 to 124 on Thursday to pass the bill, which encourages employee ownership in startup companies by making it easier for employees at all levels to use their stock options. The legislation was sponsored by House Ways and Means member Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn.

“Startup companies are the birthplace of innovation and the next ‘big idea,’ which is why this bipartisan legislation ensures this vital part of our present and future economy can attract the best talent,” Paulsen said in a statement. “By promoting employee ownership at these cutting-edge companies with a commonsense fix to our tax code, we can keep America on the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

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