How Much Do U.S. Olympic Athletes Earn for Winning a Medal?

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America’s Olympic athletes compete for gold, and for the glory of the red, white and blue. If they do well, they also get a little green.

Winning a gold, silver or bronze medal earns a financial reward for the victorious athlete. The U.S. Olympic Committee pays the following rates:

  • Gold: $25,000
  • Silver: $15,000
  • Bronze: $10,000

But the payout is not as great as it appears on first blush. The earnings are considered to be regular income, subject to taxation, according to the nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform:

A gold medalist from Team USA could end up facing a tax bill of $9,900 per gold medal, $5,940 per silver medal, and $3,960 per bronze medal.

Those are the maximum tax amounts an athlete might pay, and the actual amount depends on their individual tax circumstances. But the situation has rankled some in Congress.

During the 2012 Olympics, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio introduced the Olympic Tax Elimination Act. The proposal would have ended all taxes on medal earnings.

Although Rubio’s proposal never became law, a similar effort by South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune passed the Senate earlier this year. Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold has introduced a bill in the U.S. House to end medal taxes.

Olympic athletes probably need every bit of their medal earnings. Unlike their counterparts in other nations, U.S. athletes receive no government financial support. Relatively few get stipends or health insurance benefits from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

In fact, life as an Olympic athlete can be a hand-to-mouth existence, according to a 2012 survey by the U.S. Track and Field Athletes Association that noted the following:

  • Approximately 50% of our athletes who rank in the top 10 in the USA in their event make less than $15,000 annually from the sport (sponsorship, grants, prize money, etc.) and
  • Approximately 20% of our athletes in top 10 in the USA in their event make more than $50,000 annually.
  • Athletes outside of a top 10 USA ranking, other than some sprinters, milers and distance runners, can expect to face very limited (if any) income support.

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