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. Bobby

    First off, dude's an idiot for giving the ball to Jeter. Apparently his loyalty to Jeter and the Yankees is stronger than his loyalty to his family. Jeter will be just fine without possession of the ball and has more than the means to buy it if he wants it bad enough. Second, nowhere in the article does it say that the IRS is actually going after the guy. They tried this in the past with another incident of a fan's giving away a valuable ball, but the negative publicity caused them to abandon the effort.

    July 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ironmike

      Good thing most baseball fans are not as mercenary as you. You must belong to the Republican party, tote a gun and be born-again.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • MJ

      "Loyalty to his family" He is 23 years old.... He is a good man. It would seem that you are not. Why not just continue on with your life, being the man that you are and letting him continue on being the man that he is. I'm just say n.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobby

      MJ and Ironmike: First, MJ, let's not make sweeping judgments about peoples' character based on one's opinion about this matter. And IronMike, I won't even dignify your comments about "Republican, gun-toting, and born-again" with a response. Also, when I said "the guy's an idiot for...", I meant in my opnion he exercised poor judgment here, not that he is actually a stupid individual. As to this being a charitable altruistic act, yes it is, but are there not many causes the proceeds of the ball could have been used for which are worthier than Derk Jeter's trophy room?

      July 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gabby

    This is so stupid. I hope the Yankees clear up this craap and give the guy a break. It's not his fault he caught a stupid baseball.

    July 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. directipelinetogodsear

    What type of pickles do you like? Sweet or sour?

    July 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nomoredrama

    Man this dude isn't smart I would have sold that ball. You think the Yankees or Jeter cares about you and your issues? If you do he's a bigger ididot than I though he was.

    July 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pips

      Who cares, it's a baseball. It's not a home run record ball. It's something that would have sold on Pawn Stars for $500 on a good day.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Person

    Just...wow. I remember hearing this happening to an Astro's fan over a bunch of donut coupons too.
    If my grandfather were alive today, he would be disgusted at the state of the country he fought for...

    July 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Glenn

    Isn't supposed to be "worse comes to worst"?

    July 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      "Worse comes to worse" is actually the most common–and apparently the oldest–way of phrasing it.

      Try googling it.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I did google it and it's "if worse comes to worst." The modern idiom is "worse comes to worst." Your version, "worse comes to worse" is not only wrong it's completely illogical.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Biff

      It's "worst comes to worse," meaning just when you thought it was as bad as could be ("worst") it got even worse.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • John D


      July 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jerry


    July 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • MJ


      July 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Choconet

      Nowhere in the article does it say the IRS is going after this fan. This is nothing more than CNN instigating a situation to get people like you who don't comprehend what they read to get all riled up about nothing. I'll say CNN is very effective at making people angry over nothing.

      July 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. davidp

    A few things to remember before we call the IRS the devil:

    1. The irs hasn't said anything...some accountants have just mentioned that there is possibility that the IRS MAY not interpret it as a gift. This is always a possibility (even if small) and its just the news being sensationalist.

    2. It will most likely be interpreted as a gift

    3. Even if its somehow not recognized as a gift (which I think is unlikely), if I was in his shoes I also would not have a problem paying $14,000 in tax. HERE ME OUT. If I received $120,000 in memorabilia and tickets, you could easily sell $14,000 worth of the memorabilia or tickets to pay of the taxes and still profit $106,000! For someone not expecting anything in return, being up $106,000 instead of $120,000 is still freaking great.

    4. If he is really afraid that the IRS MIGHT not recognize it as a gift and he may have to pay $14,000, and for some reason he can't sell $14,000 worth of memorabilia/tickets (like I said in 3) then he can refuse the gifts. If he refuses the gifts/payment he won't have to pay any tax. If he wasn't expecting anything in return, this should not be a problem either.

    So yeah, I don't think he will have to pay $14,000 in taxes but even if he does, its not a big deal because he still comes out on top!

    July 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Person

      Oh he'll get hit alright. After all, the IRS was trivial enough to go after a guy who got a few free donuts.


      What makes you think they won't go after this load of cash?

      July 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |

      I agree it will be considered a gift because IRS does not need the press. He should though. He will/should pay taxes on any memorabilia that he sells. That 140k is face value also...he can be compensated much more for them once he sells them for realizable value. He will have to pay tax on any amount the memorabilia is sold for. Unless he hawks/scalps it in the street where no one is going to bother with due process.(Though he could always get audited)

      July 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • davidp

      @person Like I said, even if that happens it is not a big deal because it would still be in WAY better position then he was beforehand if he just sells some of it.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bob Fitzgerald

    It just go's to show you, the good guy's finish last...

    July 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jabber

    The IRS needs to stay out of this issue. It will cost them over 14,000 in paperwork, labor, etc. to collect. This was a nice guy just doing the right thing and the rewards the Yankees gave him should be no one's businesss. Let him make a profit and pay off his student loans. Leave the guy alone please.

    July 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sick n tired

    Professional Baseball........what a waste

    July 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JJ Walters

    I heard he had been viewing http://www.concretecouch.net on his cell phone before catching the ball...He probably got confused by the funny jokes

    July 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. gaucho420

    So this pays taxes, while the GOP won't increase there's.
    That's some country we live in.

    July 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. guest

    I can't really understand how we assign so much power to an inanimate object. Why does this ball have any value at all? Isn't the accomplishment the thing of value? If you buy this ball to you somehow bring home some of the ability of the player? Does the ball change its composition from before the hit and after? Forgive me, I Just felt like being really annoying this afternoon.

    July 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • John D

      Well, not every ball is an incredibly popular player's 3000th hit.

      You'll never see me shelling out big dollars for sports memorabilia, but I understand why someone would want this thing.

      July 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Toby

    So, he pays taxes..then if he sells it does he pay tax again???? I think if he uses the tickets and keeps the gifts, you shouldn't be taxed. Are we all in violation of tax fraud for not paying taxes on our Christmas and birthday gifts?

    July 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • davidp

      @Toby About the Chriistmas gives, we wouldn't be in violation because they would be considered gifts. He will only pay taxes if the tickets and memorabilia are not considered gifts(which I think is unlikely...but a possibility).

      And if he pays the $14,000 and then he later sells it, he would NOT have to pay additional taxes UNLESS he sell its for more than $120,000. If he sells it later for like $125,000 he would just have to pay taxes on that $5,000 gain.

      July 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • John D

      If he sells the memorabilia, he will earn either business income or realize a capital gain.

      The same thing happens (with some exceptions, for example small-ticket items sold outside the ordinary course of the taxpayer's business) anytime something is sold.

      What happened here, though, was not a sale but a gift.
      Gifts are not taxable income to the recipient. So he won't have to pay taxes on what the Yankees gave him unless he sells it.

      July 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
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