July 12th, 2011
07:47 AM ET

Fan who caught Jeter ball could owe big taxes

Next time, just throw it back.

Accountants say the man who caught the home run ball that Derek Jeter smashed for his 3,000th hit Saturday will have to pay as much as $14,000 in taxes, New York media report.

Christian Lopez, 23, caught the ball and promptly handed it over to the Yankees without demanding any kind of payment, the Daily News reported. The Yankees rewarded him with suite seats for the rest of the season, plus a heap of autographed team memorabilia.

That's what could cost Lopez. According to The New York Times, the total value of the seats and loot could exceed $120,000. The IRS would consider that to be taxable income, several accountants told both newspapers.

However, if it were construed as a gift, it would not be taxable, Columbia University law professor Michael J. Graetz told the Times.

"The legal question of whether it is a gift or prize is whether the transferor is giving the property out of detached and disinterested generosity," Graetz said. "It's hard for me, not being a Yankee fan, to think of the Yankees as being in the business of exercising generosity to others, but there's a reasonable case to be made that these were given out of generosity."

For his part, Lopez is being just as magnanimous with the IRS as he was with Jeter.

"Worse comes to worse, I'll have to pay the taxes," he told the Daily News. "... The IRS has a job to do, so I'm not going to hold it against them, but it would be cool if they helped me out a little on this."

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Filed under: Baseball • New York • Sports
soundoff (936 Responses)
  1. hillel

    The fan who caught the ball should pay all tax due on the compensation for returning the ball because when he returned the ball he knew they where going to give him something for that. That fact that they probably gave him less then the worth of th ball the him own problem and therefore this case is a business Deal that went bad for the fan

    July 12, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • larry

      Jeter should write the fan a check to cover his expenses and a some extra. Or if the ball isn't that important to him then return the ball. I think Jeter has enough money to cover the situation. After all, it's fans that generated the revenue that paid this guy over the years. Maybe the fans are not that important to Jeter and this episode will allow him to display his level of interest in the fans that made his career. This might just be an up yours to the fans moment for Jeter. Jeter could be more important than any of the fans out there in the stands and now Jeter has found the right moment to set us all straight.

      July 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. billy james

    Whoever wrote this article, one word for you..... BUSH!

    July 12, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Me

    Everyone is acting like this is new, or Obama's fault. The IRS has had gift taxes in place for decades. If someone gives you something worth any amount, you're supposed to report it. There are specific exception for some cases involving family members, but this is no different from winning a lottery, game show, etc. Those things have always been taxable.

    But hey, don't let that stop you from yelling about how horrible the IRS has become recently.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Seriously

      What is it? It's a ball. To me is worth zoro (not thing)

      July 12, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      They're not talking about taxing the ball. They're talking about taking the things the team are giving the guy – free tickets etc.

      July 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sean Breeden

    http://www.fairtax.org – Abolish the IRS!!!

    July 12, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. sheila

    Somebody needs to reign in the IRS. This guy did not earn any income. He didn't play the lottery. He went to a baseball game; he caught a ball and then gave it back to the team. As a thank you for catching the ball, this guy gets a front row seat. How does he owe taxes? Maybe if he rents out his seats....otherwise the IRS needs to back off.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • WDS

      He was given something of value and thus financially gained from the transaction. Otherwise companies could just give people stuff (houses, cars, yachts, whatever) instead of paying them and avoid taxes.

      If the Yankees were classy they would given him enough cash to cover the taxes.

      July 12, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Sum Guy

      I went to hit (REPLY) and hit (REPORT ABUSE) instead. OOPS.

      July 12, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • dan

      wouldnt he have to then pay taxes on the 14 grand they give him to cover the initial taxes...

      July 12, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. Larry

    If any taxes are owed, the Yankees should pay them.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. hillel

    To billy james the facts r there fell free to close ur eyes to most of the story but that dose not change that full truth of the story

    July 12, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JC

    Serves the idiot right for giving the ball back in the first place.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dean

      The selfishness you display is exactly the cause of all the problems in America today.

      July 12, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. calvin

    WHY is there even a question about this ? It's obviously a GIFT, not a prize AT ALL. A prize is something you win based on entering a contest. Obviously there was no contest here. The lottery is a contest and the prize is a bunch of money, but you have to WIN that money. If a lottery official GAVE me millions of $ without me buying a lottery ticker, that's a GIFT. These accountants need to go back to ACCT-101.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Sum Guy

    It's a Gift. He gave the ball and asked for nothing in return.
    The Yankees gave the seats and memorabilia as a gift to a cool fan who demonstrated great dedication to the team.
    I would file as such and let the IRS try prove otherwise.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Sprint Man

    All of the items given to the fan should be considered as a gift. There is no evidence that the fan knew for a fact that he would be compensated for returning the ball. If he was returning the ball as an act of greed, it would have behooved him to keep the ball and put it up for auction. I'm sure Mcfarlane wold pay top dollar for it.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Yank

    ...land of the "free" huh?

    July 12, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dan Horowitz

    The country is in deep financial trouble right now. We can't afford for the IRS to cut breaks for people like this who have so much just for recreational stuff like baseball. It's like the new laws passed in California that forbids police to give warnings when the state could rake in $450 for a seatbelt violation. He owes the $14,000 and if he's not willing to pay, he should return the items or face jail time.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. andacar

    The moral of the story is simple: if anybody does anything for you or gives you anything nice, you should run away screaming as fast as you can.

    July 12, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. mike unknown

    Who cares, he should have kept it anyways. Guess he wasn't thinking about his retirement huh?

    July 12, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
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