Americans who win bronze will pay a $2 tax on the medal itself. But the bronze comes with a modest prize—$10,000 as an honorarium for devoting your entire life to being the third best athlete on the planet in your chosen discipline. And the IRS will take $3,500 of that, thank you very much.
There are also prizes that accompany each medal: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze.
Silver medalists will owe $5,385. You win a gold? Timothy Geithner will be standing there with his hand out for $8,986.
So as of this writing, swimmer Missy Franklin—who’s a high school student—is already on the hook for almost $14,000. By the time she’s done in the pool, her tab could be much higher. (That is, unless she has to decline the prize money to placate the NCAA—the only organization in America whose nuttiness rivals the IRS.)
ATR notes that the real twist of the knife is that most other Olympians won’t pay any taxes on their medals because America is one of only a handful of countries which taxes “worldwide” prize income earned overseas.
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