Missy Franklin owes $21,000 in taxes for medals: Should Olympians be exempt?

Whenever an athlete is as successful, and as charming, as Centennial's Missy Franklin has been, politicians will attempt to latch on. Witness Mitt Romney name-checking her at a Jefferson County Fairgrounds appearance yesterday. Another example? A call by Senator Marco Rubio (often mentioned as a possible Romney running mate) to exempt Olympians like Franklin from having to pay taxes on cash prizes that accompany medals.

As noted by Fox31, Olympic medalists don't just come home with new baubles to wear around their neck. They also receive greenbacks whose number is determined by where they placed: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. These amounts are taxed at a 35 percent rate, meaning that the IRS takes $8,986, $5,385 and $3,500, respectively, right off the top. Using these figures, Franklin figures to owe over $21,000 to date for her two golds and a bronze.

That's outrageous in the view of Rubio, who's introduced a bill that would exempt Olympians from having to pay. As quoted in the USA Today item linked here, he says, "Our tax code is a complicated and burdensome mess that too often punishes success, and the tax imposed on Olympic medal winners is a classic example of this madness. Athletes representing our nation overseas in the Olympics shouldn't have to worry about an extra tax bill waiting for them back home."

American athletes don't get the majority of their support from the government; the U.S. Olympic Committee is principally funded by sponsorships rather than the feds, unlike similar organizations in many other countries.

Still, most of them aren't competing for the money -- especially not Franklin, who has turned down sponsorship opportunities to retain her amateur status, thereby allowing her to compete for her high school, Regis Jesuit, after the games are over. Imagine how tight, or not, those races will be.

True, only a handful of her peers will get such offers. For them, the experience of competing on a global stage is the only reward they'll receive -- and it's a big one.

Nonetheless, everyone loves a winner -- and Rubio's measure allows him to soak up some of the reflected glory from Franklin and company while at the same time enhancing his reputation as a tax cutter. That's smart politics no matter where the legislation finishes.

Here's a look at Rubio's bill.

Marco Rubio Olympics Bill

More from our Sports archive: "Missy Franklin wins Olympic gold -- and tweet from Justin Bieber."