Should Athletes Pay Taxes on Olympic Medal Bonus Money?

By S. Shugars

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.