The Agony of Victory – Are America’s Olympians Facing a Tax Bill?

The Agony of Victory – Are America’s Olympians Facing a Tax Bill?

Who watched the Olympics this year?

I only caught bits, arrested solely by the silly spectacle of five-ring skateboarding. I admit, it was pretty enjoyable.

But hardly Olympian – ceremonies to honor god Zeus should never host trivialities. Oh, I remember

Who watched the Olympics this year? I only caught bits, arrested solely by the silly spectacle of five-ring skateboarding. I admit, it was pretty enjoyable.

But hardly Olympian – ceremonies to honor god Zeus should never host trivialities. Oh, I remember those times – I’m sure some of my genetic material witnessed the event, so allow me to speak with authority. When has the span of centuries ever struck me to silence?

Whose DNA could forget the gargantuan wrestler, Milo of Croton, who labored like Hercules to honor the lord of lightning? Milo won six Olympic crowns, the love of the crowd; why, in our time, he inspires an eponymous chocolate beverage – honor, indeed. To intimidate opponents, he would roam the arena with a great bull on his shoulders, gnaw at raw meat, drink hot ox blood. Try that today and watch sponsors flee.

Too gory by half? Cast eyes, then, on Leonidas of Rhodes, swift as a stag on the slopes of Parnassus, triple-champion of sprinting at four straight Olympics. He competed in the Olympiad of 164 BC, the last pure games, as students, time travelers, and genetically inclined fibbers unanimously proclaim. We experts agree: it’s all been downhill to our day.

I blame the Romans. In 80 BC, the monstrous Lucius Cornelius Sulla, to celebrate the annihilation of his rivals (and the Republic itself) and the thousands of Greeks felled in his cruel imperial conquest, became the first foreign sponsor of the Olympics. Setting the pattern, he moved the games to a trendier location – the eternal city itself.

The Romans were bored by the contests, thought Greeks effete, wondered why gladiatorial murder was not on the program. Holy Olympus, abandoned for naught! Those Romans really get my goat, which was first domesticated in Greece, did you know that?

Fiends, Romans (not my countrymen): if only this was the depth of your lows! In 67 AD, Nero – emperor, deity, lyre strummer, Rome’s finest actor, a golden-throated popular singer (all this was true, as he lawfully decreed it), Tiber-rat crazy – became a champion of the Olympian games. He lawfully decreed it.
Nero Caesar Augustus Germanicus et al proclaimed himself the Empire’s greatest athlete and had thousands of prizes forged up to confirm it. Nero then shifted to Greece, worked on his athletic form, won 800 trophies as a warm-up, delayed the Olympics two years to fit his schedule.

The emperor-nutjob won just about all, including the chariot race, wherein he crashed and missed a crushing by a drachma’s slim edge. He didn’t even finish the race, yet triumphed, hurrah.

It is good to recall that the Classical games were part of a religious festival, as noted, for old Father Zeus. Today, sanctity is gone and national prestige and state interests stand on the podium. And wherever governments roam, whatever rocky slopes their champions scale to contend for glory, rest assured: the tax man is scuttling up in their wake.

The United States team gave a stellar performance at the Tokyo Olympiad: 113 medals, 39 gold, followed in honorable proximity by China and Japan. In friendly contention, our nation triumphed and now basks in glory, until some gaudy monstrosity in the news pulls us downslope to prosaic reality.

Sadly, some of our greatest Olympians may suffer the worst of the hangovers.

Consider sparkling Katie Ledecky, sleek as an Aegean blue dolphin, as natural and swift in all waters, the most medal-bedecked female Aquarian of all history. In the Ancient games, women did not play, and married women were not allowed even as spectators; recall, the athletes competed nude, and Greeks had slim and odd notions of propriety.

Katie, alas, has a date of destiny with the IRS. Olympic medals themselves aren’t worth much; new ones are valued at their weight in metal: rather paltry, in fact. On the second-hand market, authentic medals can be bought for a couple of thousand, rarities excepted (an original from the 1896 Olympic reboot recently sold for 180 grand). The IRS doesn’t take resale value into account, so no worries on that.

The medals themselves aren’t drawing the IRS’s attention. The prize money might seem the culprit: $37,500 for a gold medal, $22,500 for silver; $15,000 for bronze. Not a problem for US athletes: during Obama’s term, a law was passed (HR 5946) exempting them from any ‘victory tax’ on earnings less than a generous $1 million.

I never warmed to Barack Obama, considered him all gloss and show, smooth talk, and a sharp tongue for witless journalists (OK, I liked that), yet essentially a do-nothing. Here, he did something: an un-Democratic tax shelter for now moderately wealthy citizens. They were an exception; they’d sweated blood to get there; they did it for us all, and we’re all proud, etc.

If not the prizes, then what is Katie’s true problem? Ah, corporate sponsorships. Everyone now wants a piece of her Hellenic warrior nose to grace their products, athletic or otherwise. We knew this boon was coming, but now, lest anyone feel envy, cometh the taxman in victory’s wake (victory, in ancient Greek, is Nike, by the way). Pity poor rich Katie.

Meanwhile, another Katie, this time Nageotte, pole vaulting Titanídes, comfortably rests on her laurels, well under the one-million limit. And long may you reign there, oh champion of moderate means! Sometimes success isn’t worth the headache. I wonder if Nero, slowly chilling as blood trickled down his suicidal blade, pondered that notion.

Can we find lessons for mere spectators of glory? I’ve heard expressions of confusion over why athletes should pay taxes on prizes earned in overseas competitions, or from foreign-based sponsors. In 2004, I saw Red Sox star Johnny Damon’s face on a billboard in Moscow. Does the legendary “idiot” owe taxes on his puzzling Nike-Russia sponsorship?

Yes: for Americans, all earned income is taxable, no matter its source. Old-hand overseas earners know all about it, but first timers should speak to an accountant or tax attorney who can handle the ropes. This is a take-no-risk proposition, as not only Zeus can cast thunderbolts; the IRS, too, is skilled in this sport.

times – I’m sure some of my genetic material witnessed the event, so allow me to speak with authority. When has the span of centuries ever struck me to silence?

Whose DNA could forget the gargantuan wrestler, Milo of Croton, who labored like Hercules to honor the lord of lightning? Milo won six Olympic crowns, the love of the crowd; why, in our time, he inspires an eponymous chocolate beverage – honor, indeed. To intimidate opponents, he would roam the arena with a great bull on his shoulders, gnaw at raw meat, drink hot ox blood. Try that today and watch sponsors flee.

Too gory by half? Cast eyes, then, on Leonidas of Rhodes, swift as a stag on the slopes of Parnassus, triple-champion of sprinting at four straight Olympics. He competed in the Olympiad of 164 BC, the last pure games, as students, time travelers, and genetically inclined fibbers unanimously proclaim. We experts agree: it’s all been downhill to our day.

I blame the Romans. In 80 BC, the monstrous Lucius Cornelius Sulla, to celebrate the annihilation of his rivals (and the Republic itself) and the thousands of Greeks felled in his cruel imperial conquest, became the first foreign sponsor of the Olympics. Setting the pattern, he moved the games to a trendier location – the eternal city itself.

The Romans were bored by the contests, thought Greeks effete, wondered why gladiatorial murder was not on the program. Holy Olympus, abandoned for naught! Those Romans really get my goat, which was first domesticated in Greece, did you know that?

Fiends, Romans (not my countrymen): if only this was the depth of your lows! In 67 AD, Nero – emperor, deity, lyre strummer, Rome’s finest actor, a golden-throated popular singer (all this was true, as he lawfully decreed it), Tiber-rat crazy – became a champion of the Olympian games. He lawfully decreed it.

Nero Caesar Augustus Germanicus et al proclaimed himself the Empire’s greatest athlete and had thousands of prizes forged up to confirm it. Nero then shifted to Greece, worked on his athletic form, won 800 trophies as a warm-up, delayed the Olympics two years to fit his schedule.

The emperor-nutjob won just about all, including the chariot race, wherein he crashed and missed a crushing by a drachma’s slim edge. He didn’t even finish the race, yet triumphed, hurrah.

It is good to recall that the Classical games were part of a religious festival, as noted, for old Father Zeus. Today, sanctity is gone and national prestige and state interests stand on the podium. And wherever governments roam, whatever rocky slopes their champions scale to contend for glory, rest assured: the tax man is scuttling up in their wake.

The United States team gave a stellar performance at the Tokyo Olympiad: 113 medals, 39 gold, followed in honorable proximity by China and Japan. In friendly contention, our nation triumphed and now basks in glory, until some gaudy monstrosity in the news pulls us downslope to prosaic reality.

Sadly, some of our greatest Olympians may suffer the worst of the hangovers.

Consider sparkling Katie Ledecky, sleek as an Aegean blue dolphin, as natural and swift in all waters, the most medal-bedecked female Aquarian of all history. In the Ancient games, women did not play, and married women were not allowed even as spectators; recall, the athletes competed nude, and Greeks had slim and odd notions of propriety.

Katie, alas, has a date of destiny with the IRS. Olympic medals themselves aren’t worth much; new ones are valued at their weight in metal: rather paltry, in fact. On the second-hand market, authentic medals can be bought for a couple of thousand, rarities excepted (an original from the 1896 Olympic reboot recently sold for 180 grand). The IRS doesn’t take resale value into account, so no worries on that.

The medals themselves aren’t drawing the IRS’s attention. The prize money might seem the culprit: $37,500 for a gold medal, $22,500 for silver; $15,000 for bronze. Not a problem for US athletes: during Obama’s term, a law was passed (HR 5946) exempting them from any ‘victory tax’ on earnings less than a generous $1 million.

I never warmed to Barack Obama, considered him all gloss and show, smooth talk, and a sharp tongue for witless journalists (OK, I liked that), yet essentially a do-nothing. Here, he did something: an un-Democratic tax shelter for now moderately wealthy citizens. They were an exception; they’d sweated blood to get there; they did it for us all, and we’re all proud, etc.

If not the prizes, then what is Katie’s true problem? Ah, corporate sponsorships. Everyone now wants a piece of her Hellenic warrior nose to grace their products, athletic or otherwise. We knew this boon was coming, but now, lest anyone feel envy, cometh the taxman in victory’s wake (victory, in ancient Greek, is Nike, by the way). Pity poor rich Katie.

Meanwhile, another Katie, this time Nageotte, pole vaulting Titanídes, comfortably rests on her laurels, well under the one-million limit. And long may you reign there, oh champion of moderate means! Sometimes success isn’t worth the headache. I wonder if Nero, slowly chilling as blood trickled down his suicidal blade, pondered that notion.

Can we find lessons for mere spectators of glory? I’ve heard expressions of confusion over why athletes should pay taxes on prizes earned in overseas competitions, or from foreign-based sponsors. In 2004, I saw Red Sox star Johnny Damon’s face on a billboard in Moscow. Does the legendary “idiot” owe taxes on his puzzling Nike-Russia sponsorship?

Yes: for Americans, all earned income is taxable, no matter its source. Old-hand overseas earners know all about it, but first timers should speak to an accountant or tax attorney who can handle the ropes. This is a take-no-risk proposition, as not only Zeus can cast thunderbolts; the IRS, too, is skilled in this sport.

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