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. Moose

    Get a life CNN. Take your tax story, go home and get a LIFE!! You just LOVE to ruin special moments like these!!

    July 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • KeepFearAlive

      Grow up Moose .... they are simply reporting a news story... they aren't in the business of 'Ruining' special moments, nor are they in the business of making sure special moments are'extra-special' ... sounds like you have an old axe to grind and will use any story to opine about your view of CNN ...

      July 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      Think you got it wrong here Moose. I think that it is the IRS that you should be railing against... But then again, we have to somehow pay for the mess that Obama has gotten us into...

      July 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Canuck73


      HAHAHAAAA! Yeah, right, you boy Bush had nothing to do with it!!! Almost ALL of the problems the US has today were INHERITED by the Bush admin, give me one example of Bush doing good for the American citizens and not his rich buddies on Wall St. et al

      July 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • MattinDC

      ha ha LOSER Stephen thinks his Boys Bush and Cheney get a pass on our eeconomy woes.
      Sorry pal. YOUR team caused this debacle we call DEFICIT...see also WMD's that NEVER existed.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Travis F

    If the tax dept wants to be this way about it then he should be able to write off every game ticket he's ever bought as expenses in getting that ball.
    The IRS really should have bigger fish to fry don't they?

    July 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacob K

      I don't know Travis, 14k is a pretty big fish to fry

      July 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cap'n

    How much will the Yankees have to pay in taxes based on the expected value of the ball Mr. Lopez gave them?

    July 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • bsitz

      Exactly, nothing. Because the government is always after the little guy and never the big corporations.They forced that man to sell the Barry Bonds ball a few years back. Unless he wanted to pay the taxes on a ball that was worth 250k. He wanted to keep it as a prize and was forced to sell it. Our government is for the people....pffff

      July 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pete

    it's a GIFT!!! DUH!!! stupid story.

    July 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    Why not sell the tickets on Craigslist / eBay... he might be able to pay off those loans. 1/2 a season can get you some decent cash... just don't claim them on your taxes.

    July 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Don

    My experiences with the IRS have not been so bad. They have always seemed very reasonable to me. My guess is they will not dwell on it and just let it go. To say all these non-cash gains is income is just a stretch. He did not ask for the ball to fly his way and he gave it up. I think they should just look the other way. They are allowed discretion.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. eb

    I think CNN is in desperation to create some stories. This article is pure speculation, a bunch of "WHAT IFs". Thank you for briging to light this issue, now you will have the IRS behind this guy's behind, thanks for creating something out of nothing, an expensive something....

    July 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Airline pilot

    Irs, what a joke!!! We pay taxes for what? Roads? They just make tolled,schools? they close and lay off teachers. Irs is the biggest thief of them all, let the man have this one its' not as if the money will go to a good cause.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dale

    Mr. Lopez is as awesome as the IRS is, uh, not awesome. But, seriously, this was a gift. Clearly. He had already given the ball back (or publicly promised he would.) The Yankees had no obligation to give him the stuff, nor is there any compelling reason to believe they were getting anything in return for it.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Judge

    Apply common sense here......it is obviously a gift....he didn't get it for winning anything and he didn't know he was going to recieve it.......this wouldn't have even been a story if the so called accountants mentioned had used common sense

    July 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Peter

    Right on, Stephen! It was awful the way Obama drastically deregulated the financial industry, gave whopping tax breaks to corporations and the nation's wealthiest, and massively increased defense spending, which, as we all know, gives nothing back. The real question is how did Obama get a third term to try to fix it all.

    What's that, you say, Obama wasn't the President in 2001-2008? Hm, well, I'm sure he must have been pulling the strings somehow from his bunker in Kenya, right?

    July 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • callen

      I was thinking the EXACT same thing about the EXACT same comment.

      It's like the Obama hate train or something....

      July 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AD

    Honestly, if GE can go w/o paying a dime in taxes for $14b in profits, why should this kid get taxed? I truly think we need to revamp our tax laws, but alas, our fabulous Republican party definitely will look to keep the rich in mind. I don't know why middle to poor class republican supporters vote against their own interests. Seriously, are they that stupid!!

    July 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DerekJeterBaseballDude

    Shhhh! Dang, CNN. Did you have to put me on blast like this? Now the IRS is sure to come after me for money i don't have. I'm suing you, CNN, if the IRS comes after me!

    July 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Claxton

    I remember something that Frank Abagnale, the subject of the movie "Catch Me If You Can" said about handling people who embezzle money from the company. The best way to handle them is to report what they stole as income on their W-2. The embezzler, then, has to deal with the IRS and the company doesn't spend undue time and resources in court.

    Obviously, this man didn't steal anything. In fact, I applaud him for giving the ball to Derek Jeter. He was under no obligation to do that. And the Yankees had no obligation to give him anything in return. I think it stinks that he has to pay taxes on it, but I also think it's fair because unless the Yankees declare it a gift, it's income. Game show contestants have to pay taxes on whatever they win, as do lottery winners. Now, maybe what the IRS can do in this instance is lower the amount of tax he owes – something between 2 and 5 percent of the total value of what he was given would be sufficient – but I think $14,000 is a bit much.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tim

    It's a gift. A prize would need to have been announced prior to the event. You win a prize that is offered. You are given a gift when it is not publicized or promoted.

    IRS back off. Go tax some huge corporation like Exxon or something who is raking in record profits, rather than give them a refund and no taxes charged whatsoever!!

    July 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
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