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. EricD

    Christian Lopez amazes me and gives hope in doing the right think is its own reward. A rare gem.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. smrtaz

    I say fight fire with fire. If the IRS is going to count those gifts as taxable income, then the ball itself should be consider a donation by this individual. I've heard, if sold, this ball could be worth up to $250,000 to collectors. That sounds like a donation of $250,000 to me. That should offset the $120,000 in income from the gifts very nicely.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • JJ5inFL

      haha nice!

      July 12, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Cory

      I like that!..... that is fire with fire.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • gg in nj

      Only poblem is that in order to take a tax deduction for a donation, the recipient needs to be a chariable organization, which I don't think the ball team, nor the player are. I would think if the team didn't give him the seats, but rather allowed him to sit there (he never holds the tickets) that would been better. But either way it sounds like Mr Lopez is in a position where the taxes won't "hurt" him, but still might as well make the hurt as less as possible.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      Except the gifted ball wasn't to a chartible organization. The yankees are a for-profit. No donation can be allowed.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • AntiObama

      Get some tax credit there...lol

      July 12, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      That's good thinking. Unfortunately, the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter are not 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, so the gift would not be tax deductible. Although, Jeter does have the Turn 2 foundation, which is, so maybe...

      Regardless, I have a lot of respect for this guy for giving the ball back to Jeter. Class act!!!

      July 12, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • abc123

      He is not being penalized just because he gave the ball back and received gifts from the Yankees . Even if he had kept the ball and sold it , he would still be liable for taxes on whatever he sold the ball for as taxable income. Of course in that case he would receive cash from the sale and would be able to set aside money for the taxes he needed to pay.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jeremy

    How could it be considered a prize and not a gift? I don't recall seeing a promotion that said "if jeter hits a homer for his 3000th hit and you catch the ball, you win (this)"

    July 12, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • I agree with...


      July 12, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rick

    Taxes on the middle class in 1913 were 1% on wages over 15,000 a year. When the income tax was first implemented, it was only meant to be imposed on the wealthy.

    Fast forward to 2011 and taxes on the middle class run 30%, not counting state and regressive consumption taxes.

    The wealthy have managed to push the tax burden down to the poor and middle class while pushing the government to give them huge tax breaks and reductions in capital gains taxes, which is the tax they generally pay the most of.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      OK do we have to do this all the time or are people this stubborn. The poor do NOT pay income tax. Actually about half the people in the country don't pay income taxes. It is still the rich that pay a vast majority of income taxes.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Ping

      Rick... When was the last time that you paid more in taxes than you got in a refund? You CLAIM that the middle class and poor pay the greatest proportion of this nation's tax burden, yet they receive the greatest amount (across the board) of tax breaks and "social program incentives". Corporations don't get refunds... they get bills. the top 1% ARE paying the bulk of this nation's taxes already. It is time that the middle class and poor follow suit!
      When I was poor (making less than 20K per year) I was getting 4-6K tax returns while paying in only $750 at most after all of the tax breaks for the poor. That is a FREE 20-25% income boost! Even now that I am consodered middle class, I STILL got a 4K return while paying in a little over $2200.
      Until there is true IRS reform where there are no child tax credits or educational credits and all of that other "free money" that the rich and corporations already pay you for then you armchair tax experts have nothing to cry about. The day that you say "Here is you tax money, oh and you know what... please keep the rest of this refund that I didn't earn" is the day that you have a leg to stand on with your argument about the rich dodging tax responsibility.

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

      Thats not right.. The lower income get all that they paid in for the year. Plus thousands of dollars more for all the children they have. Kids are the ticket from paying taxes and getting big refunds.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. denver co

    Where is it written that we must pay taxes at all? The IRS collects taxes but nowhere does it say it's mandatory that we do.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Pablo

      Don't forget to gas up yer tractor before you head over to the nearest federal building with a load of explosives.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Random Guy

      AHAH pablo made me spill my coffe

      July 12, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • twolfhound

      I think Ron Paul recently passed a law putting it on the books. But, if not and if you have the money to afford the lawyers to fight the case and the time to spend in jail while fighting it... I say rock on. I hope you win.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. Lino

    I believe we should be taxing GE, Exxon/Mobile, among others that are not paying taxes and profiting Billions of $$. Not this individual who made the right choice in giving back a peace of history to Jeter and getting a reward for doing the right thing.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Guess who pays to make up the profits lost by taxing the gas companies? That's right, everyone who buys gas. Think about it. The gas companies report to their share holders and aren't just going to pay more taxes without raising the price of fuel to cover it and keep profits up. The low and middle class end up taking the burden of this so called tax the rich idea.

      July 12, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      Apparently you havent realized that corporations dont pay taxes out of their pockets, they pass it on to the consumers. Basically you want to pay more at the pump?

      July 12, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. TheIRSareJERKS

    Can't think of a better reason for him to claim bankruptcy then. They can't squeeze blood from a turnip ya know.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. rightthing

    The right thing?

    Please. The right thing would be to sell the ball and save the money for his kids education. This moron is dumber than we originally thought.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      still smarter than you

      July 12, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. Sublime

    It's a friggin' thank you for returning a baseball. Why does the law have to be involved in every aspect of everything?

    July 12, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Ping

      Welcome to Liberal big government! Notice what state this is going on in? I despise NY lawyers.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  10. Betsy

    Just goes to show that no good deed goes unpunished!!! I think it was a gift not a prize. There was no contest to see who could get the ball it was dumb luck that the hit was even a homerun. I think Jeter should pay the taxes if they are imposed. I am a die hard Yankee fan too and I don't think his good deed should cost him a dime.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. BL

    It was a gift! Catching a ball and giving it back, and in appreciation was given a gift instead. These tax people are something else, everyone is nickeled and dimed to death and can barely make it and now facing tax increases?

    July 12, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. to EricD

    What is the wrong thing? People say he kept doing the right thing, but what exactly is the wrong thing? So would Jeter and or the yankees then be doing the "right thing" and pay the taxes for this man? Or if they dont come out and say they will are they doing the wrong thing? I mean Jeter isnt even going to keep the ball himself. its going to coopers town anyways.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Ping

      Yeah but you can surely bet that Jeter is going to claim to the IRS that it was a $250,000 gift to Cooperstown and take a HUGE tax break on it. Lopez should do the same thing. "Oh you want $14k in taxes on the ball? Well BAM give me a $250K tax break and make ALL of my taxes for the year go away! TYVM IRS!"

      July 12, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Stephanie

    Make sure the next time you pick up a quarter in the Winn Dixie parking lot or your child fines a dime in the bubble gum machine that you report it so you can pay taxes! THIS IS BS~! America if you would quit bailing out these banks that refuse to help people then you would be startving for tax money!

    July 12, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Knifer

      Well said. They persecute the everyday american until we get tire then they fall back, and return later. The IRS are a bunch of unregulated crooks, that can ruin your life at the drop of a hat. People should stop attending these games and events that generate all this tax dollars in protest for the everyday american.. Theyll eventually wise up , maybe....

      July 12, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. Rob

    I'm sure Jeter could take care of that tax bill for him

    July 12, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • You_would_think

      I'm sure he could, but that would probably also be taxable as income so he would have to pay either way. The government sucks

      July 12, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. BSKC

    A story about nothing. "Accountants say", the IRS didn't say they were doing anything. As mentioned above, if this is income, the ball was a donation. Any decent CPA could get around this. I'd imagine Derek would cover it for him.

    July 12, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      "Any decent CPA could get around this." Sure they could. The point is that here's a 23 year old guy who, if he's paying taxes at all, probably isn't filing a long form. And now he faces the prospect of having to hire a tax accountant to make sure the IRS doesn't sting him next year. Why? Because we've allowed government to tax nearly every aspect of our lives. The only thing they don't tax is the air we breathe, and they would if they could. This literally fell out of the sky. There should be no reason for Big Brother to stick his fingers into it.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • abc123

      Except for the fact that the Yankees are not a charity so a donation to them is not deductible. Also even if they were, catching the ball worth $100,000-150,000 would be like hitting the lottery or winning a prize on a game show. That is taxable income.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
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