Congress blocks 'victory tax' on Olympic athletes

U.S. Olympic athletes would be exempt from a so-called victory tax under legislation approved by Congress and sent to the president.

The Senate gave final legislative approval Thursday to a bill that would block the IRS from taxing most medals or other prizes awarded to U.S. Olympians.

The U.S. Olympic Committee awards cash prizes to medal winners: $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. That's in addition to the cash value of the medals themselves -- about $600 for gold, $300 for silver. Bronze medals have little monetary value.

Because the money is considered earned income, it is taxed -- a practice some lawmakers refer to the "victory tax."

The bill would allow Olympic taxes on high-profile athletes such as swimmer Michael Phelps or NBA star Carmelo Anthony who earn more than $1 million a year.

For Phelps, the tax bill for his five golds and one silver won in Rio could be steep -- as much as $55,000. Gymnast Simone Biles faces a possible $43,000 tax bill for her haul of four golds and one bronze.

The Senate vote came as President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted several hundred members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House. The U.S. won 121 medals at the Rio Olympics, including 46 gold medals.

The president applauded American women for their performance in the summer games, where they won 61 medals, the most ever.

"2016 belonged to America's women Olympians," he said, singling out Biles, swimmer Katie Ledecky and track star Allyson Felix. Obama also hailed Phelps, the most-decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said many countries subsidize their Olympic athletes. "The least we can do is make sure our athletes don't get hit with a tax bill for winning a medal," he said.