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
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  1. eric

    F the IRS.. this is total BS. You get 'lucky' to catch a ball, hand it over to someone and the government wants you to pay $14K? We need to get rid of this tax system!!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jeremy

    The tickets will have a face value of zero dollars. That's how comped tickets to a baseball game work. They printed value is the face value, so they simply print $0.00 on the ticket. Problem averted. The balls and jerseys and things have no value unless he sells them, and then he must pay tax on the income from the sales. This is a non-story.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • rufus

      I beg to differ. The items DO have value. That value will be converted into dollars if he sells them. It is the same thing for people who win stuff on game shows. They have to pay taxes on their cars, fridges, trips, etc. Maybe this can be viewed as a gift, though. If not, it is income and taxes are owed. Don't blame the IRS. Dat's da law!

      July 12, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • mass

      Jeremy is correct. This is a non story.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. Nick in California

    I believe intent has to be taken into consideration. It was widely reported, and can be verified the Fan simply wanted to give the ball to Jeter, without compensation. I believe if the Yankee organization is pressed, they would respond that they too, moved by the fan's generosity, were moved to provide a gift to the fan due to his selfish demeanor. If the IRS looks at the facts, and verifes the above with the Yankee organization, they will determine both acts to be gifts, based on intent

    July 12, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. AC

    Rather than fight donation with donation, I say treat it as a business transaction. Money is simply the store of value to make the transfer of goods and services – excuse the pun – more servicable. What the Yankees organization and Mr. Lopez engaged in was the antiquated process of bartering. Christain exchanged the ball for goods and services worth $120,000. Now, all we can assume is that the fair value of the ball was exchanged for the fair value of goods etc. Essentially, Mr. Lopez had "income" of $120,000 (what he received in merchandise) and "expenses" of $120,000 (what he gave up in the form of the ball). The IRS has no place in this deal – it is a zero sum transaction. He didn't receive a gift since he gave up something of value to receive everything he did. Take it a step further – jokingly – and he has a $130,000 loss for handing over the ball at a price well under fair market value. Always mark to market!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • rufus

      How did he get the ball? That's the question. What if he found $100K lying in the street. Wouldn't that be income to him? What he does with the asset thereafter is a different analysis. If the ball was worth $350K and he gave it up for $120K worth of gifts then he had income of $250K initially and a loss of $130K and net income of $120K.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      That transaction itself would be a zero-sum transaction, but you're forgetting the $120,000 "income" in the first place from receiving the ball.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • rufus

      I am glad at least Steve gets this. The rest of you are probably in the 50% of the population who pay no taxes. I guess you can't be expected to know how the system works. Instead just keep shouting "tax the rich."

      July 12, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • AC

      I disagree. When he received the ball it had a value of whatever it cost the MLB to purchase it. Are you going to argue that Jeter "gifted" the ball to Christian at $120,000 when it left his bat? I would argue that the ball wasn't worth anything beyond what a normal baseball was worth UNTIL he engaged in the transaction with the Yankees. If you want him to pay taxes, force him to pay them on the $5 bucks or whatever it cost to buy the baseball since that is its only determinable value at the time he received it.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. Andrew

    I love people who are complaining about tax cuts for the rich when, in reality, the top 1% of rich people in this country pay about half of all income taxes (at the federal and state level). And about half the country doesn't pay any taxes in the end to begin with. Open a book.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      who the hell are these people who aren't paying taxes? I have had to pay taxes since I was 13 years old and haven't stopped since.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Bill,

      In 2010, 47% of Americans did not have to pay any federal income taxes because either their income was too low or they qualified for enough decuctions.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • WDS

      As is often the case you guys are mixing things up. Not paying federal income taxes is not the same as not paying ANY taxes. Poor folks pay more of their incomes as a percentage toward FICA, sales tax, property tax, fuel taxes, etc. than wealthy folks do. In fact their total tax burden (as a percentage of their income) is higher than wealthy folks.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Thomas

    Fair Tax Now!!!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Norm

      The fair tax isn't and is a horrible idea in general.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Your opinion. In my opinion, the Fair Tax would be a far batter option than what we have today. And crap like this would never happen.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. NoJack

    This is a stupid article.

    The stuff he got was a gift so STFU.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Shmink Bidubski

    What an IDIOT!!!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. fandms

    Time to revolt and take this country back! you can do it. more taxes more money to expend, raises for the white house employes, raises to the state employes, taxes for the regular Joe, AMERICA TIME TO WAKE UP! REVOLT!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Good luck.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. howard philipson

    This is just HEARSAY and total nonsense so the NYTimes will be able to fill space.
    The IRS determines who owes Federal Taxes.
    The caught ball was free and the items given in exchange were free.
    This is not a business transaction.
    The ball will probably end up in Cooperstown.
    If the IRS determines that 'someone' owes taxes, then the Yankees
    will pick it up.
    This is all such a bunch of garbage by a supposedly journalistic
    publication.
    There's no news here, folks.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • rufus

      If you find $100K in the street, is this "free" and not income? Isn't wonderful how people with so little knowledge always have an "opinion'?

      July 12, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeffrey

    This is the same for game shows where money and prizes are won. People don't realize that when watching game shows. "Wipeout" has a $50k price. 36%+ of that goes to the government. I'm not familiar with game shows, but hopefully they take the taxes out before writing the check to the winner.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. fandms

    no jack a_s it's not stupid, you are the stupid

    July 12, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dee Doodles

    The system rewards the crooks and penalizes the honest. A flat tax is needed with some incentive for savers.
    Everyone in Washington and Wall Street has a hidden agenda. If their agenda differs from yours, you lose.
    Their agendas are self motivated and usually driven by greed and power. It's really that simple. The tax system could have been easily changed to a flat tax but of course what about all the accountants being put out of work? Here come the Washington accountant lobbyist power brokers to buy votes. The system is designed to take from you whatever they can and have you believe it is for your own good. Who knows better how to spend your own funds than you do. I say flat tax.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Lisa

    Well, I'm sure there are 14,000 people that would send him a dollar so he could pay the taxes. I also don't think the IRS will tax him. We shall see.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. JMc

    Everyone should have to pay taxes no matter what. That is why there should be a simple consumer based tax and not an income based tax that way all the illegals and undoumented jobs will end up paying taxes through the purchase of goods.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
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