California Looking To Become First State To Exempt Taxes on Olympic Cash Awards

SACRAMENTO, California, May 25. A new bill making the rounds in the California capital could make Olympians who live in that state exempt from paying state taxes on the money they receive from the U.S. Olympic Committee for winning medals.

California Assemblyman Jeff Gorell sponsored the bill that passed the state Assembly with a vote of 53-4 Friday, according to an article by Fenit Nirappil of The Associated Press. Gorell argued that many Olympians are struggling to make ends meet while training, and deserve the tax break to make life a little bit easier.

“The least we can do as a state and as Americans is to give these athletes a small break on this achievement they earn for their enormous sacrifice, these achievements made on our behalf,” Gorell said.

Those opposed to the bill say the money the Olympians would not pay could help schools and other needy institutions, and wondered why Olympians were chosen for the tax break.

The USOC pays $25,000 to an individual who wins a gold medal at the Summer or Winter Olympics. A silver medal can earn an athlete $15,000 and a bronze medal would pay $10,000. If the bill passes the California Senate, the tax exemption would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014.

Many aquatic athletes who are looking to win Olympic medals in the 2016 Olympics reside in California. Besides the current professional swimmers training at UC-Berkeley and Southern California, many of the USA Water Polo national team members reside in California. And if Missy Franklin makes California her official home for tax purposes after starting her professional career next year, she stands to get a huge break off the major cash payment she’s likely to get for winning multiple medals in Rio.

Two U.S. senators have introduced similar legislation in Washington, D.C., to make a bill for federal tax exemption for Olympians. The Associated press did not mention how far along that bill’s progress has gone.

Associated Press article