Athlete Career and Education

Taxes for Athletes - Welcome to the Gig Economy


YES! A contractor, self-employed worker or freelancer, can be anyone who is paid on a contract basis rather than as an employee. As an athlete, you likely have the same special considerations as contractors to think about during tax season and throughout the year. Keep reading to understand how to file your taxes like a contractor and how to keep it simple!


What’s the Difference?

  • The good: Contractors can claim business expenses on their taxes that employees can’t
  • The bad: Thanks to the self-employment tax, even after those deductions you’ll probably end up paying taxes at a higher rate than your friends with office jobs.
  • The ugly: You might want to put the IRS helpline on speed dial because your taxes might get complicated.

For more info on tax advising assistance, visit the ACE Financial Wellness page.


Whether you file online, hire an accountant, or do it the old-fashioned way with a calculator, you’ll need the following to file your taxes:

Pro Tip!

Your sources of income will likely be very different from the average person’s. Competition earnings and payments from social media promotions, appearances and product endorsements are all considered forms of athlete income!


Chances are you’re familiar with the general idea of deductions: They’re amounts that reduce your taxable income, which in turn reduces the amount of tax you owe. If you have $50,000 in income and $10,000 in deductions, then you owe taxes on only $40,000 of your income!

Everyone must choose between taking the standard deduction and itemizing deductions. If you itemize, you’ll need to add up lots of smaller individual deductions (such as deductions for interest paid on a student loan and for charitable donations). By contrast, choosing the standard deduction means you get to reduce your taxable income by a set dollar amount.

Standard deductions for 2018


Elite athletes (a.k.a. contractors) can take “business” deductions that employees can’t—and you can take these even if you don’t itemize your deductions! In tax lingo, that’s because business expenses count as “above-the-line” deductions—basically, they reduce your adjusted gross income. You can (and most certainly should) deduct your business expenses even if you don’t itemize but remember you generally report your business income and business deductions on an entirely different tax form (called Schedule C!).

Your business deductions can include:

  • Education and training expense
  • Equipment and uniform
  • Commissions and fees paid to agents and manager
  • Work-related treatments, such as massage or physical therapy
  • Work-related travel, meals and housing

Pro Tip!

Track these expenses throughout the year so you’re not left scrambling at tax time! Hang on to all your receipts and records for any sport-related expenses you plan on claiming.

Self-Employment Expense Workbook


Should you incorporate?

  • Incorporating can lead to more paperwork and more complex taxes but can potentially help you claim some extra tax breaks.

Tax treatment of prize money

  • Olympic and Paralympic Games medals and prize money are typically not federally taxed unless you have very high income.
  • State taxes on Olympic and Paralympic Games medals will vary by state.

Impact of federal benefits for athletes with a disability

  • Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability benefits generally are not taxed. However, athletes who have a disability may need to consider whether prize money may impact their eligibility to continue receiving these benefits.


  • If one of your clients didnt send a 1099 form, you still need to report that income.
  • If you travel a lot for sport, you may owe taxes in multiple states in addition to your federal taxes.
  • The self-employment tax covers your contributions to Social Security and Medicare. Employees split this tax with their employers—with the employer paying 7.65% and the employee paying 7.65%. As an athlete/contractor, youre responsible for paying the full 15.3%, but you get to deduct half that amount (the “employer half”) as a business expense.
  • Athletes/contractors likely need to make quarterly estimated tax payments during the year.
  • Starting with the 2018 tax year, you may also be able to deduct 20% of your sport-related income, depending on the details of your tax situation. Speak to an advisor for more details.

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