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Should Olympic Medalists Pay Taxes on Their Winnings?

Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller, Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian, from left, stand for the medal ceremony for the men's 4 x 100-meter medley relay final at the 2016 Summer Olympics on Aug. 14, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Many believe the U.S. government should change its policy of taxing Olympians who win gold, silver or bronze medals during the Olympic Games.

Medal winners earn $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze and athletes are taxed on the prize money according to their tax bracket. Athletes in the highest tax bracket of 39.6% pay $9,900 for a gold medal, $5,940 for silver and $3,960 for bronze.

PJM asked some Virginians on the street if they agree with the U.S. government taxing Olympians’ prize money.

“Of course not. No. They don’t make any money anyway; it’s pitiful. We should be paying them a whole lot more than that,” a woman told PJM in Alexandria.

Three other people interviewed said Olympians should not be required to pay taxes on the prize money associated with winning a medal.

“When somebody plays a sport and they are giving out their best talent, how can you tax them? Fundamentally, I think something is wrong there,” one said.

“I’m inclined to go with no on this,” said another man. “I feel that, I don’t know, on the one hand it’s an event — well, at least this one takes place outside of the U.S. — it’s also, in a way, in a framework that’s not particularly tied, at least fiscally, to one government or something like that. Yeah, I am more inclined to say no.”

However, not everyone interviewed agreed with making Olympic medalists’ prize money tax exempt.

“Taxes exist for a reason. They keep the roads around. As long as they use them properly I have no problem with it. Sure, it’s unfortunate for the Olympians who trained four years but it comes with traveling, you know,” said one man. “They have to travel all across the world and that costs, you know, taxes and plane fees, etc. So everything has its costs and drawbacks.”

A woman told PJM that she was unaware medalists pay taxes on their winnings. She said the “professional athletes” competing in the Olympic Games should pay the tax.

“First of all, I had no idea. I really didn’t. I don’t know. I think if they are professional athletes, although most people who are in the Olympics are amateur, although some I think are professional, but I think if they are professional athletes, yeah, they should be taxed like everyone else. After all, if I win a car I am taxed on that, aren’t I? So yes, I do,” she said.

Another man said the athletes should not be taxed for winning a medal while representing their country.

“I don’t think they should be taxed. If they win it overseas especially you shouldn’t pay taxes for winning money out of your country for your country. I mean, winning is winning. We are kicking ass in the medal count, so good for us,” he said.