Should Athletes Pay Taxes on Olympic Medal Bonus Money?

taxes on winning medals

I read the article where Olympic athletes who win medals at the Sochi winter games will have to pay taxes on the money. Almost every person I’ve talked to about this says that it’s wrong, and that they should be able to get this money tax free. Although I know this is an unpopular opinion, I disagree. I think that athletes should have to pay taxes on bonuses they get from the medals that they win. These are the reason why.


Let’s be honest. Olympic athletes are, for the most part, professional athletes. While there was a time when Olympic athletes had to be amateurs, that time is long gone. Take a look at the players who make up the teams for Olympic hockey. Almost every athlete that is competing in the Olympics is a professional in their chosen sport.

Almost all of them do their sport full-time on some tour where they get paid and have endorsement deals from equipment manufactures. On their respective tours, they earn bonus money when they win events or come in the top places for the competition. The Olympics is seen as a pinnacle of events in many of these sports which is the reason that they are willing to compete in them.

If a runner runs the Boston marathon and wins, the runner will earn a cash prize as part of the purse. That prize money is taxable income as it should be. It’s part of their profession. It’s how they have chosen to make their living and get paid. It’s their job. It’s the same with Olympic athletes and their chosen sport. Like all other people who have professional careers, when they earn money from it, they have to pay taxes on that money.


Another reason that I hear is that these athletes have made a sacrifice to become an Olympic athlete. While this may be true, so have a lot of other people in the jobs that they have chosen to pursue. A dedicated teacher is a great example. Someone working at a non-profit organization is another. They could earn a lot more going into business, but they have chosen their career because it’s what they’re passionate about. By choosing this course of action, they earn less than what they might make elsewhere, but they still have to pay taxes on all the money that they earn doing it.

Competing for Their Country

Another reason I hear is that these athletes are competing for their country, so they should get the bonus tax free. Yes, they are representing their country, but they aren’t doing so for only this reason. The Olympics are the “world championship” for many of these sports. While the competition is broken down by teams of countries, the athletes are also competing for themselves. It’s the individual who gets the bonus money, not the country.

Athletic Worship

I think that we continue to have a problem of athletic worship around the world. Yes, athletic achievements should be celebrated, but that shouldn’t mean that athletes get special privileges above the rest of us. When a person wins a Nobel Prize for science, they are required to pay taxes on the prize money that they receive. Again, it’s because they are winning in their chosen profession. Why should athletes in the Olympics be the sole exception of this rule?

Who Should Get Tax Free Money

In my opinion, if an athlete wins a gold medal in the Olympics, they should get a bonus just like they get prize money when they win an event on their professional tours. But just like the prize money they win in the other competitions that they compete in, it should be taxable. The Olympics is another competition, but on a grander scale. It’s like a world championship for minor sports. We would never say that the athletes who get cash bonuses when they win world championships in the NBA, NFL or MLB shouldn’t need to pay taxes on those bonuses. Why only for the Olympics?

What I think should happen is in addition to the athlete getting their bonus, another bonus should go to the Olympic organizing committee for that sport to help those interested and show promise in the sport, but who may not have the financial means to to it when they are younger. This is the who truly deserves to get the bonus money tax free.

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8 Responses to Should Athletes Pay Taxes on Olympic Medal Bonus Money?

  1. Anon E. Mouse says:

    I completely agree that athletes should pay taxes on their winnings. The rest of us pay taxes on our earnings; athletes should be no different.

    But I think your statement: “Almost all of them do their sport full-time on some tour where they get paid and have endorsement deals from equipment manufactures. On their respective tours, they earn bonus money when they win events or come in the top places for the competition. The Olympics is seen as a pinnacle of events in many of these sports which is the reason that they are willing to compete in them.”

    is a little optimistic. Outside of the “big sports” like alpine skiing, most of the athletes live on a shoe-string budget. There aren’t a lot of people sponsoring luge athletes. They’re paying their way with part-time jobs and help from family.

    But that’s not a reason to get special treatment. There are a lot of people who are poor because they’re doing what they’re passionate about.

  2. Paying taxes is a very big issue in our country. I’m living here in the Philippines and recently we are so shocked because when the Filipino caregiver won the X-Factor Israel the government asking her to pay for the tax of what she won!

    And now we have our very first representative in figure skating Michael Martinez, her mom revealed that their house was loaned because the government refused them to financially support Michael. Just wondering what if he will win? Will they ask him to pay taxes too?

  3. Brooker says:

    Olympic athlete winners should not pay taxes on the metal winnings. If they exceed more than enough, with endorsement, sponsorship, excluding costs of travel, and hotel expenses then they could pay some taxes. They should be treated special as they represent our country and are going distances and extra ordinary trainning involved.

  4. S, Shugars says:

    You seem to agree with me even though you think you don’t. If athletes have expenses more than $25k, then they would not need to pay taxes on it, they would deduct these expenses from the $25k on their taxes and have $0 tax liability. This is only if the money is profit.

  5. Daniel Hermann says:

    Winning medals at any Olympic event, be it Sports or be in International Olympiads in Maths, Physics and Chemistry is far removed from working at a job. The country also gains prestige and recognition on account of the winners. Whatever they earn, apart from the purse they get on winning the Olympic medal should be taxed but not the purse. The Olympics are in a separate class by themselves.A sportsman would participate only for the glory even if there were no winnings in cash. Therefore the cash component, if any, does not form part of the equation.

  6. Minny says:

    Should the money athletes are paid for winning form part of their taxable income? If it does and the athletes live hand to mouth to fund their training and sporting expenses then any tax payable will be small. If they earn a lot from other sources then any tax payable will be more.

    That seems fair.

  7. Gailete says:

    Yes they should and it has nothing to do with how they got it. It is part of the tax code. Prize money is taxable no matter how or where you get it. I didn’t know that they got anything more than the medals. I know some of them are scraping by but not all of them. Many of the athletes from other countries are completely subsidized by their country. But not here. If I have to pay taxes on any income that I earn that is taxable, why shouldn’t the Olympic athletes? Depending on their tax situation, I would think that how much they would pay would fluctuate with each person.

    What is Form 1099-MISC Income?

    Income reported on Form 1099-Misc. Examples include:

    – Amounts you were paid for freelance or consulting services you provided
    – Amounts you were paid as an independent contractor
    – Money earned as a sole owner of your business
    – Money received from rents or royalties
    – Money received for providing health-care services
    – Prize winnings
    – Farming-related crop insurance proceeds
    – Income from farming and fishing businesses

  8. teresa says:

    Of course not. These hardworking athletes have worked their strengths and physical abilities without any financial help unless they were lucky or shall we say favored ones. Let them keep what they earned, in full

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