Punishing Success?

I came across a conservative friend’s post about an Olympic gold medalist paying around $9,000 in taxes and how the U.S. is punishing success. After poking around, this article from Yahoo! Sports lists the amounts of the cash prizes that Olympic medalists receive in addition to the medal: $25,000 ($8,986 taxes) for the gold, $15,000 ($5,385 taxes) for the silver, and $10,000 ($3,500 taxes) for the bronze.

Among the comments I read that intrigued me was one relating to our country punishing success by taxing Olympic athletes.

This leads me to two questions:

  1. Is taxation, in this case, fair?
  2. Should athletes who win a medal for the United States be tax-exempt because of their service to the country? (The article linked above likens Olympic athletes to members of the armed forces being deployed.)

Taxation is fair regardless of success in the Olympics or failure in business.

I don’t think Olympic athletes should be exempt. They sacrifice as much as the mom working two jobs in order to care for her family and she is not exempt from paying Uncle Sam.

What are the motives of Olympic athletes? Breaking a record, winning the gold, living forever in the history books? Sure sounds like gambling to me and the last time I checked, people that win in casinos pay taxes on their winnings.

Taxation is not punishing success. It is in its simplest form an assurance that the infrastructure of our democratic economy is functional and maintained. But when exemptions are made for circumstantial and political purposes, the system begins to crack and inequality floats to the top.

I know that people want to cut taxes and limit wasteful government spending, but the reality is that the only way we can maintain our country is to change our view that taxation is unfair and to hold our elected officials accountable to the purchasing decisions made with each tax dollar.

It is my responsibility to ensure that my success not only benefits me, but gives back to the system that supported me each and every step of the way.