While Michael Phelps savors the accomplishment of being the most decorated athlete in the history of the Olympics, his accountant may be busy calculating the tax burden of Phelps’ success.
Winning U.S. athletes returning from London could be liable for as much as 35 percent of the value of their medals and cash prizes. The U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee rewards a cash prize of $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze medals.
So far, Phelps has won two silver medals, valued at approximately $385 each, and one gold medal, valued at approximately $675. His cash prizes total $55,000, leaving him with a potential tax bill of $19,756, payable in full to the Internal Revenue Service.
Last year, a Gallup poll found Americans believe 51 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is wasted. Confidence in state and local spending is higher than that of the feds – but it’s sinking. Regardless of voter confidence, some politicians keep asking for more taxes and spending the money as fast as they get it.
In the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte, Calif., the city council is asking voters to support a tax on businesses that sell soft drinks. Local businesses like Art’s Burgers would be required to pay the city a penny-per-ounce tax on sodas and fruit juices sold to their customers. But Arthur Meier Jr., who owns Art’s Burgers, told the Pasadena Star News, "It's not good for the restaurants. I do what I can just to survive right now."
For 29 years, Meier flipped burgers. Then, in 1999, he accomplished his dream of owning his own burger joint. Now, the El Monte Council says it needs more money to pay for pensions and retirement benefits promised to city employees – and they’re targeting businesses like Art’s Burgers.
Whether your dream is to win the most Olympic medals in history or to stamp your name on a business of your own, success takes a lot of hard work and personal dedication. Federal lawmakers perhaps never intended to tax Olympic medals; it’s more likely an unintended consequence of a complicated tax code. The El Monte City Council, on the other hand, is very deliberate in its intentions toward Arthur Meier Jr. They want a bigger share of his dream.