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U.S. House should support Olympians and pass TEAM Act

August 4, 2016
Editorial , Lake Placid News

For the past several years, members of the U.S. Congress have presented bills that support re-writing the federal tax law so American Olympic and Paralympic athletes are tax exempt from the medals they win and honorariums they earn from the U.S. Olympic Committee when getting a gold, silver or bronze.

Since those bills have not yet reached President Barack Obama's desk, many are still asking the question, "Should our Olympic athletes have to pay those taxes?"

We wholeheartedly support current bills in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would change the federal tax law so our Olympic medalists do not have to pay taxes on their USOC honorariums or the value on the medals they win.

Article Photos

In front of a group of U.S. Olympians, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) speaks at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid Tuesday, Aug. 2, urging the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation that would exempt American medalists from having to pay taxes on medals won and income earned at Olympic contests overseas.
(News photo — Antonio Olivero)

The USOC, according to NBC News, awards cash to medal winners: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. The money is considered "earned income abroad," and the monetary value of the Olympic medal is also subject to federal taxation.

The Summer and Winter Olympic Games have grown into behemoth events that include rich superstars. Yet here in Lake Placid - the home of the last small-town Olympics in history - the Games are still about the little guy and gal, the underdog, our neighbors who travel around the world, representing the U.S., and compete on the international stage. Most Olympians - especially those in Lake Placid's sliding sports - do not make a living with their sports; they're busy trying to earn a living on the side while training for the Olympics.

Our support of the Senate and House bills is rooted in our proximity to these Olympic athletes. Money is a constant worry for them because they have to sacrifice so much just to find the time in to train. And they need to train - a lot - in order to reach world-class shape. Our hometown heroes should not be penalized by the IRS for finally reaching the podium.

The bill in the Senate (S.2650), known as the United States Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympians Act, was introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) and co-sponsored by Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who visited the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid Tuesday, Aug. 2 to bring attention to this bill, which was also co-sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York). The Senate passed the bill on July 12 without amendment and by unanimous consent.

"Our Olympian and Paralympic medalists should be worried about breaking world records, not breaking the bank, when they earn a medal," Schumer said after the bill was introduced in March. "After a successful and hard fought victory, it's just not right for the United States to welcome these athletes home with a victory tax. I'm hopeful that this bill will earn strong bipartisan support and quickly become law."

Now it's the House's turn.

The bill in the House (H.R. 2628), known as the Tax Exemptions for American Medalists (TEAM) Act, was introduced on June 3, 2015 by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and was originally co-sponsored by G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina). Six other congressmen have co-sponsored the bill since its introduction, and on Aug. 2, our own Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) pledged to co-sponsor the bill as well when the House resumes its session in September.

"The dedication and sacrifice all of our athletes make to represent the United States in the Olympic Games is inspiring and deserving of our nation's full support," Stefanik wrote in her Aug. 2 statement. "This is why, in Congress, I will be co-sponsoring legislation that will exempt our athletes from burdensome tax penalties they face when they win Olympic medals. After all of the sacrifice our athletes make for years to represent us on the world stage, we should not punish them for being victorious."

The TEAM Act bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee on the same day it was introduced, and no further action has been taken for more than a year. We join Sen. Schumer and Rep. Stefanik in urging the House to pass the TEAM Act bill so the House and Senate can send a final version to the president for him to sign.



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