Senator Marco Rubio has long made tax simplification one of his talking points. And who (besides the ultra-wealthy and their lavishly compensated tax attorneys) isn't frustrated by the Byzantine rules, complicated exceptions and various loopholes and special provisions larding up the tax code?
But it's bizarre that Rubio is trying to marry that fight to his newest pandering policy proposal. Says Politico (emphasis added):
Sen. Marco Rubio is offering the Fab Five, Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte and all the other American Olympic medalists more than just a pat on the back. He's trying to keep the IRS off their backs. Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced today The Olympic Tax Elimination Act, which would exempt U.S. Olympic medal winners from paying taxes on their medals. Olympians receive honorariums in the form of cash payments of $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze, which the IRS currently taxes. "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," Rubio said in a statement. "Athletes representing our nation overseas in the Olympics shouldn't have to worry about an extra tax bill waiting for them back home."
Actually, this is a perfect example of why the tax code is a complicated and burdensome mess. Guys like Rubio stumble upon a category of earning that they regard as being "different," whether because there are campaign contributions in it for them, or because it advances a larger ideological agenda or, as in this case, because the category of people being taxed are popular. This particular loophole accords with a widespread intuition that the prize money and medals from an Olympic victory are unlike "regular income" that is subject to routine taxes. It also plays on general antipathy toward the IRS. Many can probably imagine what it would feel like to win an Olympic medal, and feel that they'd be resentful if presented with a tax bill.