Colorado Springs legislators propose state tax break for Olympians

February 2, 2017 Updated: February 2, 2017 at 11:17 am
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US 4x200 freestyle relay team members, left to right, Conor Dwyer, Townley Haas, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps cast large shadows after receiving their Gold Medals Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at the Rio Olympic Games. It was Phelps’ 21st gold medal and his second of the night. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Rep. Clarice Navarro of Pueblo hopes to give Olympic and Paralympic champions a tax break on the medals and bonuses they receive for competing for their country.

Navarro's initial co-sponsors on House Bill 1104 are all from El Paso County: Reps. Paul Lundeen, Terri Carver, Larry Liston, Dan Nordberg and Dave Williams.

"Our Olympic and Paralympic athletes shouldn't be penalized by way of a tax on their medals or stipends," Navarro said. "Not everyone ends up on a Wheaties box, and as Coloradans we have an opportunity to make a statement and a difference to and for the young people that work so hard to represent the U.S."

The bill is endorsed by the privately funded United States Olympic Committee, based in Colorado Springs.

Last year Congress gave broad partisan passage to a similar measure to exempt medals and stipends from taxes.

The USOC awards prizes of $25,000 for gold medalists, $15,000 for silver medalists and $10,000 for bronze medalists - money taxed as income earned abroad, on top of the value of the medal, according to the Accounting Today blog.

Paralympian winners receive $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000, respectively

"Your proposed state-based legislation would provide much needed and significant financial support to some of Colorado's most dedicated amateur athletes," Desiree Filippone, managing director of government relations for the USOC said in a letter to Navarro, after Navarro volunteered to sponsor the legislation.

"Olympic and Paralympic athletes play a unique role in representing our country at the Games. Unlike athletes in virtually all other countries, the USOC and our athletes receive no government funding, and instead rely on the generosity of the American public and private sponsors for support. These young men and women dedicate years of training to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games without government backing. While the USOC and its athletes are not asking for government funds to support their efforts, it seems only fair that our Olympians and Paralympians are not taxed when they successfully represent their country in these competitions."

The cost to state coffers isn't much. Legislative analysts sized it up:

"The bill is expected to reduce state revenue by a minimal amount. Data from the USOC shows there were 65 Colorado residents that participated in the 2014 winter and 2016 summer Olympic and Paralympic games. Of these, seven athletes won an Olympic or Paralympic medal for a total of seven medals (three Olympic golds, one Olympic silver, two Olympic bronzes, and one Paralympian bronze). The value of the state income tax would have been approximately $2,400 ($52,000 X 4.63%) in tax year 2014 and nearly $2,800 ($60,000 X 4.63%) in tax year 2016. It is unknown if these medal winners also received prize money from their respective sport's governing bodies. If so, the amount of the state income tax deduction would have been higher."

This bill is scheduled for a first hearing on Feb. 6 at 1:30 p.m. before the House Finance Committee in Room A of the Legislative Services Building on 14th Street on the south side of the Capitol.

Here's a fun list the Colorado Springs Gazette put together: "7 Things You Didn't Know about Olympic Medals.

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