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. Andulamb

    I hate when speculation becomes news. The IRS hasn't asked for anything. And won't. This guy needs to talk to his accountant about how to report this - as a gift or as a prize or as a payment - and the IRS will take it from there. However he reports it, if the IRS doesn't audit that's the end of it. I'm not an accountant, but I say it was a gift. The guy didn't ask for anything, so it's not a payment. He wasn't on a game show, so it's not a prize. That makes it a gift. Just like the ball was a gift. If the IRS ends up auditing and says the guy owes them money, the next fan who catches a valuable ball should sell it - to the team or to a wealthy collector. That way he would have the money to pay any taxes. (P.S. If the guy owes taxes on the gifts he received from the Yankees, then the Yankees better damn well owe taxes on the value of the ball. If the gifts were a prize, the ball was a prize too.)

    July 12, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • the 2chefs

      He needs a lawyer not an accountant. They will tax him. Some how they will get his money.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin B

      Why aren't reporters for CNN out looking for real news stories instead of trying to come up with something to write about while just sitting at their desk?

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

    This story is BS. This guy will not have to pay anything...... PERIOD. However, I do agree that the IRS sucks and is unfair. We are all taxed to near death in this country. Have the rich pay more taxes? The reason most rich people got that way is from hard work and taking risks. The rich are the people that give us jobs! Leave this guy, who caught the ball, alone and let him enjoy himself.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • For The People

      Hey idiot Cornerman! The rich are the ones that give us jobs? WHAT JOBS ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT???

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

      Thank you, Mr. Limbaugh.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Smokingman

      Taxed to death? What are you smoking? Federal tax rates are the lowest in history and that is taxed to death? People like you should that the advise:
      It is better to be thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. ha-ha

    That's typical US bull for you. Screw trying to work the system with loopholes with gifts and what not. The mere fact the IRS would even bring this up is flag. What you citizens need to do, is rise up and purge your country of all these people. All government, politicians, IRS, FBI, any agency with an acronym in front of it.

    There are over 300 million of you, why do you people sit there and take this from about .1% of the population.

    To the poster who posted about top 1% pay half all the income taxes.. that is complete bull, check your facts before you post or do not post at all. The top 1% pay a whopping grand total of 2.1% initially of the income taxes and they actually recover 3.5% after the fact, so they are making money when they should be paying it.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. albo

    If he got $120k in cash or type of pay he should pay taxes but a gift is a gift he don't need to pay taxes, ask your acct.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. D P

    He can just add the 14k to his 100K in college loans.....

    July 12, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Brett

    For all those saying he actually had a loss or whatever – the income was when he caught the ball.

    It works like this: when you acquire an item, your "tax basis" in that item is set. Usually, but not always, it's the purchase price. So if you buy land for $50,000, you have a tax basis of $50,000 in it. This is the amount from which depreciation is taken and losses and gains are calculated. For example, if nothing else happens in the interim and you sell the land for $40,000 some years late, you have a $10,000 loss you can offset against other income. But if you sell it for $60,000 you have a $10,000 taxable gain.

    In this case, he received the ball for free so he had a basis of $0. If he'd held the ball, no tax would be assessed since it couldn't be valued and he hadn't realized any income. However, when he "exchanged" the ball for $120,000 in goods and services, he realized an income on the ball. Also, the IRS can use that transaction to value the ball. So sale price – basis gives taxable income: here $120,000 – $0 = $120,000. He is likely in a low tax bracket and that's why it's only $14,000 in taxes instead of 25 or 30%.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • N@tTurn3r

      The IRS would have to prove that he directly exchanged the ball for for the suite seats and on the surface, that doesn't appear to be the case. Only a few individuals know what was discussed behind closed doors, but it's unlikely that the IRS would put much effort into investigating this.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. psbfla

    Geez......you either lose your life or lose your shirt catching a ball!

    July 12, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. just a thought

    Do you have any idea why so many tax lawyers are ex-IRS employees? They know how insinsitive and nasty the IRS people are and they don't want any part of that ilk of people. I've heard that many IRS people don't have any friiends outside of fellow employees; any wonder why?

    July 12, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. concerned citizen

    claim it as gifts. doesnt that work?

    July 12, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff

    This is ridiculous. If he had negotiated a deal, then I say, yes, tax him. But he said all he wanted was a meeting with Jeter. He got that and the Yankees offered him the rest. Despite the Yankees reputation, that is a gift. In this cynical world, maybe the Yankees were struck with how the man didn't ask for alot of other things. So, I say get off his back, and let him enjoy his gift.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Midwest Dad

    Put aside all the IRS stupidity, Mr. Lopez is a class act. His reactions through all of this have been outstanding. He should be commended that, even in the face of legalistic nonsense, he keeps a clam demenor and stays above any pettiness.

    Well Done Sir! You are a shining example of what we as a nation should be.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. christophorm

    watch arron russo's videos on you tube cal "mad as Hell"

    July 12, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. 1racebannon

    Another Headline looking for a story...nice job CNN.

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

    I'm no fan of the Yankees; In fact, I can barely stand them. However, in this case I'm inclined to believe that all the free stuff was a gift. Even if you think the Yankees weren't being generous, call it a gift for the sake of the great fan who handed the ball over without any requests beyond a couple autographs. That guy deserves all the free stuff, even if he is a Yankees fan. 😉

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

    Okay so why is CNN upset about this? I thought all liberals want to raise taxes anyway?

    July 12, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
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