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. Allitrop

    When are we as American's going to stand up and get rid of these non-American IRS rules? People in other countries actually go out and risk their lives to fight against government like this. Instead, we sit here on our a$$es giving our opinions on blogs.

    Way to go America!!!

    July 12, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Louis

      Yeah and we see how awesome those other countries are.

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

      Sooooo, what did you do about it today? I mean other than sit on your a_ _ and complain on this board?

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

      This is absolutely terrible! Tax man leave us alone, please!

      July 12, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • faulkner

      non-american? nothing's more american than paying taxes

      and if he is so freakin upset about having to pay the taxes on a HUGE FREE WINDFALL then give me the damn ball, i'll gladly pay them without complaint ... just like those idiots who say 'but if i win the lottery i'll have to pay half of it in taxes' ... fine give me the ticket ... i don't have a problem paying taxes on a big winning

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

      Actually, virtually all other leading countries are taxed more heavily than the US, with higher standards of living. The "lower taxes!" chant is getting old. The US economy is struggling for many reasons, but high tax rates isn't one of them.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Carlos Lopez

      You're talking about treason.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • abc123

      One problem with what you are saying among many is that tax rate in many countries including most of Europe are higher that the US tax rates.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. DrNick48

    Some accountants have too much time and an Andy Warhol proclivity for wanting, seeking and generating 15 minutes of fame. What's the IRS position? And now K-Earth 101 is reporting Christian's tax bill as FACT. . . . Sheesh . . . . GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. Bradbury was right; we're inundated with meaningless factoids that no one knows how to make sense of . . . .

    July 12, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. firewalker25b


    July 12, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Andy

    I HATE the yankees, but both sides did it right here. The fan's actions were really impressive, just handing the ball over with no negotiation. The team could have cheaped out and just given him a few signed baubles, giving him suite tickets for the rest of the year is going above and beyond. A creative accountant will probably get the taxes down to a reasonable amount. yankees suck.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Dead Man Blogging

      Yup. The key here is "no negotiation." Therefore, no quid pro quo, so the Yankees owed him nothing. It was, in fact, an unsolicited gift. But, can anyone in the know comment on the limit for tax-free gifts? I thought it was $10,000, whereas this gift was valued (in the article) at $120,000.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • CPA in NYC

      The gift tax exemption currently is 13k per year. If its ruled a Gift – The Yankees will be liable for the taxes. If its ruled as Income to the individual, then the taxpayer is liable.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. This issue is

    complete garbage. The reporters basically made up a goofy argument and got "experts" to agree that the IRS could take a certain position. They won't. Why would the experts comment? Because they get their names in the NYT – which they then post on their websites as proof that they are widely respected accountants. The whole thing was probably hatched by a PR firm working for the accountants.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. bill

    This is retarded. Yeah more tax cuts for the rich but lets go after the kid who catches a baseball..

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

      Agreed, but not on the retarded part.

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

      Nowhere does it say in the article that the government is after him for taxes. This is just theory put out by the author of the article.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. The 46th Pres

    All of this can be fixed with the swipe of a pen.
    Obama can sign a letter to the IRS to leave this kid alone.
    He did the right thing. He is a fine example of what an American kid should be. For that the IRS wants to penalize him.
    Obama writes letters to folks everywhere else, why not put the IRS in its place on this one.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ronald

    What' s the big deal? That's the norm, a part of how the working class has to support the tax cuts for the rich.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. Roscoe Chait

    I have nothing but praise for IRS agents. They do a tough job. I was once audited and was treated with respect and consideration. Having said that, the tax laws in this country are way out of control. The Tax Code creates a Gestapo organization that extorts money from the citizens of our country. This is not the fault of the agents, but of a government that will not address how taxes are determined. With a flat tax, everyone will feel they are paying their fair share and not being exploited. As far as the seats are concerned, give the guy a break. It was a gift.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bigwavedave

    Threaten to tax the rich and they will let him keep the ball, tax free.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. AGeek

    How is this *not* a gift? The was no advertised prize. There was no contest. If the IRS wants to call it a prize, I'd tell the Yankees to keep it .. I don't want the gift.

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

    he GAVE the ball back. they GAVE him the suite and memorabilia. there was no contest, therefore it was not a prize. this is disgusting and sad.

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

    Free country? is this a free country? don't think so, where the government want to squeeze every penny from you. We are getting into communism little by little and the blind people of this country either don't want to see it or just don't care. Of course IRS wants all the money they can get, and since no one organizes protest on the streets they feel free to keep robbing the American people. Yes, they need all the money they can get to give it to the needed, most of them welfare recipients that pretty much have figure it out the American system, why work at all if the government can give to you fro free, food stamps, medical care, and much more, you don't need to work one day of your pathetic life. All of this thanks to the working people, thanks to the companies that provide work for the working people that pay their taxes every year so that Obama pays their bill as a thank you for voting for me. WHAT A DISGRACE!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  14. Fred

    For all you tax gurus out there, if Jeter's homerun ball would sell for say, $500,000 at auction, didn't this guy actually pay $500,000 for $120,000 worth of Yankees tickets and Jeter paraphernalia, which by my calculation would be a $380,000 LOSS. In any case even if the guy couldn't deduct the loss, he still PAID for the tickets and the paraphernalia in which case the tickets and the paraphernalia are neither income nor a gift. Correct?

    July 12, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • abc123

      But his catching the ball is like winning a prize or hitting the lottery. It is taxable income.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mike from Calgary

    IRS has not been involved in this, just some self-serving accountants who couldn't generate free publicity from the persecution of Casey Anthony! CNN is party to this silliness as well!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
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