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. Mike

    Just so everyone knows, this story is on other news outlets also so it's not like CNN is just trying to come up with filler stories.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dubs

    This man did not knowingly enter into any sweepstakes or purchase a chance to win what he was given. This random act of kindness is clearly a gift and not a prize.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      So the tax regs requires a person to know that they have entered an arrangement that could be taxable before it can be taxable? I don't think so.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jonny

    Why is giving the ball to Jeter "the right thing to do". If its worth enough for this young man to get out of debt and a few bucks in his pocket that's his right. Jeter with his 300 million sure the crap wouldn't do the right thing for this young man. This kid messed up.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • USMC88

      Just because being in debt is the "in-thing" in America, it doesn't mean that this young man is in debt. He knows his financial situation better than anyone on this comment chain.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ginalee

      Gimmmee, gimmmeee, gimmeeee, huh, jonny?

      July 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. HotSnax

    Mr Lopez is a man's man.. total class act. I hope the team gets his back on all of this BS

    July 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. WritersWithCats

    And this is why we need to blow up the IRS...

    July 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • TrueAmerican

      reported for terrorism

      July 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brian

    yet we have democrats saying kids like Christian should pay MORE in taxes

    July 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      And we have RepubliCANTS who hope that his grandmother loses her social security and dies in a gutter of starvation.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rachael

      Exactly what is the basis for your statement about democrats making him pay more in taxes? Progressives aren't hoping to raise taxes all across the board, they're hoping to raise for people in specific income brackets. I make no assumptions as to which bracket this gentleman falls under, but assume that he's not "at risk."

      But by all means, keep with the blanket statements as though we're all to be swayed by the notion that a guy catching a baseball is sacrosanct and above paying taxes when he himself clearly doesn't seem to be too stressed about the IRS.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • CW

      What democrats are saying that?

      July 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emmy Skaddittle

      no the democrats are saying Jeter should pay more in taxes, 100000 won't doesn't fit that bill. please use your brain and stop parroting Rush

      July 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tal

    slow news day?

    They didnt even bother to ask anyone at the IRS. The story basically says, "hey we heard about the guy getting some stuff and we asked some guy in accounting for his opinion to get a story."

    And then they make it sound like the taxes would be for catching a ball. In the absolute worst case scenario he could just turn down all the stuff the Yankees gave him. Could even just ask for the ball back in exchange and he still wouldnt have to pay a dime.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. aclasscali

    If I were you, I'd ask for million dollars atleast if not more..You got robbed...This is a sad story..

    July 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. carn

    Damn government has there hands in everything. They can't solve their own money problems. But they could come up with a reason to tax someone for anything. The guy gave the ball back! Did not ask for anything. They gave him a gift for being kind enough to give the ball back without asking for payment. Leave him alone. This reminds me of the Oprah problem with the cars she gave away to her audience. Do something nice for someone. Someone is always out there to screw it up. That's why the world is so messed up now. And it's only getting worse. Leave the man alone. Let his nice jester be an example that not everyone is out to make a quick buck. He could have.

    July 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • CW

      Reading comprehension not a strong suit of yours is it. The government hasn't done anything. This is just a couple of accountants deciding whether or not the IRS would consider it taxable.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • V-Dog

      I think you meant gesture as opposed to jester. 🙂

      July 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. G-man

    There are many ways around this tax issue. The Yankees could pay the tax burden. They could also make him a "goodwill" ambasador for the team for the rest of the season as he attends games in the prized seats. As to giving the ball back to Jeter, kudos to his lack of greed.

    P.S. I never liked the Yankees...

    July 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      THat's all right... they never liked you either...

      July 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Alexa

    Is this guy married? What a great catch he would be!

    July 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Give me a break

    Someone please tell me how this WASN'T a gift! It's absolutely ridiculous that this young man has been so obviously targeted. IRS, you want to collect taxes? Go after all the tax dodgers in this country!

    July 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      Even if it is a gift, it would still be taxable. CNN is wrong. However, in the case of a gift, it is the giver and not the recipient who is stuck with the tax bill. There is an annual exclusion, plus certain types of gifts (such as paying somebody's tuition or medical bills) that are exempt, but $120,000 is definitely well above the annual exclusion amount.

      July 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jpbslayer

    Now here is my question – if the yankmes pay the 14,000 in taxes for him, Will he then owe taxes on that prize also??

    July 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dan Gambill

    Heres the loophole, HE COULD GIVE THEM TO HIS WIFE FOR A ONE TIME TAX BREAK AND OWE NOTHING!! This is what I would do since he probably wont get anything like that again.....GOOD LUCK. If he is not married, give them to a family member he would trust.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aloisae

      If he gives them to a family member (spouse excluded) he is liable for a gift tax on a gift of that size. He'd have to split it up between 10 different people, roughly, to bring it down below the gift tax annual exclusion amount. Plus, the tax being discussed is on the transfer FROM the Yankees.. not from him. Unless the Yankees are the ones that split the gift up into amounts below the exclusion amount, the transfer would still be taxable (with the tax bill going to either the Yankees, if it is deemed to be a gift, or to the recipients if it is deemed to be an equal exchange for the value the parties set on the ball).

      July 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Baseball is a religion in America

    So I guess then churches should be taxed as the money they receive is not a gift, but payment for services rendered.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
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