Knesset passes law exempting Olympic medals from taxes

The new law grandfathers in medal winners from last year.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Gymnastics - Rhythmic - Individual All-Around - Medal Ceremony - Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, Japan - August 7, 2021. Gold medallist Linoy Ashram of Israel poses with her medal (photo credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER)
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Gymnastics - Rhythmic - Individual All-Around - Medal Ceremony - Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, Japan - August 7, 2021. Gold medallist Linoy Ashram of Israel poses with her medal
(photo credit: REUTERS/LISI NIESNER)

If an Israeli wins the Jewish state’s first-ever medal at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, it will be even more valuable, after the Knesset plenum passed into law late Monday a bill that will exempt Olympic medals from income taxes.

The new law will be retroactive, which is very rare for Knesset legislation. That means it will apply to the 14 Israelis who won medals at last summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.

“This tax exemption is our way of thanking these athletes who represented Israel with pride and stood on the podium wearing blue and white,” Knesset Finance Committee chairman Alex Kushnir (Yisrael Beytenu) said. “They shouldn’t have to pay taxes for representing Israel and winning medals.”

In a rare example of cooperation between the coalition and opposition, the bill was co-sponsored by coalition MKs Yossi Shein (Yisrael Beytenu) and Simon Davidson (Yesh Atid) and by opposition Likud MKs Yariv Levin and Ofir Katz.

The law will also apply to medals won in the Paralympics. In the Knesset Finance Committee, the bill was widened to also include international and European championships in any sport.

 PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with gold medalists Artem Dolgopyat (left) and Linoy Ashram. (credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO) PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG with gold medalists Artem Dolgopyat (left) and Linoy Ashram. (credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)

Until now, Olympic medal winners paid anywhere from 35% to 50% of their winnings to the State of Israel in income tax.

Davidson, who is a career athlete, said passing the law “made history,” while Shein said he was happy that a glitch in the system had been corrected.

“This is an important day for Israeli sports and national morale,” Katz said. “We changed the absurd situation in which these athletes worked hard to represent the state, and the state took their money away from them.”