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    Friday, February 27, 1998

    Olympic champions get warm welcome -- and big tax bill

     MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's Olympic champions got more than a warm welcome when they returned home this week. They also got a big tax bill.
     For the first time, Russian athletes aren't exempt from paying taxes on all their Olympic earnings. That means they'll pay around 33 percent on money they've received from the Russian Olympic Committee, their sponsors, and the Russian government.
     Particularly galling to the athletes is the tax they'll have to pay on the special, $50,000 bonus President Boris Yeltsin promised for every gold medal.
     "It's a shame to have to pay such a huge amount," Larisa Lazutina, who won three gold medals at the Nagano games, was quoted as saying in Thursday's edition of the Kommersant daily.
     However, she said, "as a tax-paying citizen, I'll have to pay."
     Athletes were given tax-free status for their sports earnings in 1993, but a tax code amendment the next year limited the tax-free portion of their earnings, the Moscow Times reported.
     It quoted Anna Kamardina, a tax official, as saying that athletes have to pay taxes on all income except prize money distributed by event organizers.