Nick Goepper: Lawmakers want to give Olympic medalist a tax break

State, U.S. legislation may exempt medal winnings

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. –  Olympic bronze medalist Nick Goepper might get a break on his state taxes thanks to the proposed "Nick Goepper Tax Exemption."

OK, it's not called that. But an Indiana legislator is sponsoring a bill to exempt medal winnings from state taxes retroactive to Jan. 1. That means it only applies so far to the 19-year-old skier from Lawrenceburg, since he was the only Indiana Olympian to medal at Sochi last month.

Goepper's $10,000 winnings from the U.S. Olympic Committee may soon be exempt from federal taxes, too. There are bills in the U.S. House and Senate to give tax breaks to Olympic and Paralympic medal winners.

Indiana Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, added the Goepper tax break onto Senate Bill 161 on Wednesday. That bill gives a tax break to Indiana military on active duty outside the state.

"We give hundreds of millions of dollars every year to people who come and ask for tax incentives," Austin told the Indianapolis Star. "We have one medalist. I hope we are going to get a chance to honor him before we leave this session."

Not all Indiana lawmakers approve of the Goepper tax break.

"I don't have anything against Olympic athletes," Rep. Thomas Washburn, R-Inglefield, said. "I don't know why we should give them special tax treatment when every other Hoosier who is working at their job and receives a bonus award or a cash award has to pay taxes. I don't get it."

The proposal passed 69-20. The amended bill still has to pass the House and Senate.

Nationally, there are two bills to keep 2014 and future Olympians from having to pay federal taxes on their newly acquired medals and USOC awards.

President Obama supports the idea.

The U.S. Olympic Committee gives $25,000 to gold-medal winners, $15,000 to silver and $10,000 to bronze. And medal winners typically give between 10 percent and 39.6 percent to Uncle Sam.

The few millionaire Winter Olympians like snowboarder Shaun White and skier Bode Miller, presumably in the top 39.6 percent tax bracket, would pay as much as $9,900 in taxes for a gold medal, $5,940 for a silver and $3,960 for a bronze medal, according to FOX News.

Miller won a bronze last month; White didn't win any.

An Olympian in the 28 percent bracket, about the middle range, would pay as much as $7,000 for a gold, $4,200 for a silver and $2,800 for a bronze medal.

Olympians in the lowest 10 percent bracket would pay $2,500 for a gold, $1,500 for a silver and $1,000 for a bronze medal.

Under the legislation, medalists would still have to pay taxes on any endorsement or sponsorship income.

“It’s stupid to tax the medals our Olympic athletes won,” said Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)., co-sponsor of the House bill.

“They represent America as ambassadors as well as superior competitors in their sports. Medal winners in particular are a source of pride to us all. The last thing we should do as a government is send them a bill from the IRS when they return home.”

RELATED: Dennis Janson column: IRS should cut Olympic athletes a break on winnings
PHOTOS: Nick Goepper at the Olympics

Follow Goepper on Twitter @NickGoepper and on Facebook.

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