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. Olivia

    Too all u peeps out there who think he should have taken or gotten money.. screw yall,,, He did the right thing in giving the ball back to to the one person it would mean the most to.. This random act of kindness is few and far between... We need to stop and think about what it would mean to someone if we did something nice for them.. Kudos to this young man and his family.. His father is a class act.. He taught this young man how to BE a man... Something that most men can't do. or don't know what it takes to be a man. And Yes he is engaged to be married.......

    July 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      Get a life, u r just being rude and not even making a point. This is about wether or not the should be taxed... Not about what kind of man he or his father is

      July 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob M

      Jeremy – I disagree. It is very telling of a man to hold something that is worth much not only to him but to others, but to give it up altruistically for the benefit of others.

      July 12, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. El Jeffe

    If the IRS construes this as a prize, they are really being screwy. This wasn't a payment for services, it wasn't a contest. If the guy had sold the ball to someone, that would be different, but he gave it up without any expectation of remuneration. Clearly this is a gift. Any other 'verdict' should be contested.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      There was a quid pro quo with a known dollar value. Even gits are taxable beyond a certain value, even between family members. The exception would be if the gift went to a charity or non-profit.

      July 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carl

      It sounds like he gave up the ball with no conditions, and then the Yankees chose to hand him some free stuff later. That is neither a prize nor a fee for services.

      If they had a standing offer to provide free tickets to anyone who catches a ball, then it would count as a prize. If he had negotiated for that stuff as a condition of returning the ball, then it would be a fee for service or property. Neither of those are specified in the story.

      July 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lisa

    To....not "too".... you...not "u" ........."screw yall"........get some class!

    July 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jjb1313

    Shut up....

    July 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. World War 3 Soon to come

    GREEDY GOVERMENT

    July 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Colin in Florida

    While Australia has a lot of screwy tax laws, they get this one right: If you win money (or equivalent, like baseball seats or a car) it's all your, tax free. Of course, this really affects so few people that the government doesn't lose out on much money.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Socks

    This isn't even the IRS.. It's a journalist in the shower thinking of ways to milk this story from every angle imaginable.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Yankee Doodle

    If the guy said before he handed over the ball "I want tickets, signed memorabilia, etc for this" then I would say it was payment. But considering he handed it over no strings attached other than meeting Jeeter himself and afterwards the Yankees gave him the other stuff they should be considered gifts.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. lari Spitler

    Just another example of our backwards tax code. . .I guess this guy deserves this for negotiating such a bad deal. . .Could have sold the ball for 6 figures. . .You will regret this my man.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. liza

    It seems like what they gave him was a gift for his return of the ball. I'm unclear how the IRS could call it something else.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jer

    So..this is the governments new way of making money. guy buys a ticket to a game, catches a baseball, gives it back and has to pay $14k in taxes. He didnt ask for those seats. The IRS needs to take a long walk off a short pier

    July 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. seabass1

    Are F%#@*&g kidding me ? This is what's wrong with this country . The guy goes to a baseball game , pays taxes on gas to get there , tax on tickets , tax on drinks at the stadium , catches a once in a lifetime ball and the IRS is gonna tax him HOW MUCH ? This is FUC%#D up !!! I am an angry American !!!!!!!

    July 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mike from iowa

    the Yankees did not have a contest going such as "catch the ball, win the grand prize". No, they were never planning to give that stuff away. then this man did a nice, humble thing. He didn't barter for exchange. So I would interpret that as a gift. It's not income.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. detada

    This is a stupid article.

    July 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. David

    He is not smart. Derek Jeter is worth 125 Million. Let Jeter bid on it. If it sold for 200,000 that would only be .16% of Jeter's net worth. .16% of my teacher's salary is only 72 dollars. Put it into perspective. It's like he won 200,000 on a scratch off at a gas station and traded it in for free tanks of gas for the rest of the year, 3 hot dogs, a couple of sodas, and a bag of Funyuns. They should make a Darwin Award for worst financial decision of the year.

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