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. WannabeTaxGuy

    If it's a gift from the Yankees, the Yankees pay the tax. If it's considered taxable income, then Christian Lopez pays the tax. So someone is going to pay the tax no matter what.

    From Irs.gov:

    "Gift Tax

    The gift tax is a tax on the transfer of property by one individual to another while receiving nothing, or less than full value, in return. The tax applies whether the donor intends the transfer to be a gift or not.

    The gift tax applies to the transfer by gift of any property. You make a gift if you give property (including money), or the use of or income from property, without expecting to receive something of at least equal value in return. If you sell something at less than its full value or if you make an interest-free or reduced-interest loan, you may be making a gift."

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

      So, according to you, that ugly green sweater Auny Claire gave you on your last birthday is taxable??? Or the $50 Grandma gave you at graduation is taxable??? I don't think so.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      technically yes, but thats why there a floor you have to clear before you have to pay taxes. that floor is pretty high, $5 million, if i remember correctly

      July 12, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. BetterDeadThanFed

    Hey, this is "revenue" that the Dems are clamoring about.

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

      You're the idiot everyone is pointing fingers at.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. USAR soldier

    i bet they'll tax the guy that finds the cure for aids too

    July 12, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      assuming that guy will win the Nobel Prize and accepts the money, then yes, he will be taxed.

      July 12, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. bourneblogger

    This country is absolutely ridiculous... I guess with all of the tax breaks the GOP wants to give to rich people they have to come after honorable guys like Christian Lopez....

    July 12, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. kevin conway

    Jeeter should pay the guy's student loans. Cheapskate. And Dimaggio was a wife beater. And juicing baseball has become professional wrestling anyway.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Akamai

      Kevin, Forget your meds this morning, did you???

      July 12, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. Thurbz

    How about WHEN he's charged taxes, THEN you make a news story about it...maybe?

    July 12, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. CPW

    Moral of the story: dont catch any balls at any game cause the FUN Police will come for you...

    July 12, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • YOS27X

      Or fall and die!

      July 12, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rob

    As a tax guy (and somewhat closeted Yankee hater) I think I can comment intelligently here. The fan's tax bill is based on the premise that he transferred the ball to the Yankees in exchange for the season tickets (an "exchange" for tax purposes). If that's not the case, then no gain on the "sale" of the ball. In my view, the fan made nothing more than a potentially taxable gift to Derek Jeter (assuming the ball is worth more than $13k and his lifetime gifts exceed $5 million). That's it for him. Now the owners of the Yankees may be on the hook for gift taxes themselves. Now the question is what is the real value of luxury box seats that would otherwise go empty? But that's not the fan's problem.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. Linda

    I'll reserve judgement on the tax issue, but the more I read the more I like Lopez. He seems a genuinely nice guy who does what's right regardless of what popular opinion may be. I wish him nothing but the best.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. yanksfanman13

    must be some pretty weak accountants. there is a concept known as wherewithall to pay. since he has received no monetary compensation, he has no ability to pay those taxes. additionally, since this young man has repeatedly said, giving the ball back to jeter was the right thing to do, it implies he gave it for free. the yankees were merely giving a stout hearted fan, a gift for his high moral standards.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Unfortunately, it's irrelevant under tax law whether you received cash in the transaction or property. Presumably he can sell the property to pay the tax. But this is all assuming he owes tax in the first place, which I don't think he does. There is no "quid pro quo" as the ball was given without expectation of payment. I think the Yankee's can afford their share of any taxes owed on the "gifts" they made to Mr. Lopez (who I agree seems like a stand-up guy).

      July 12, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tracy

    This guy is going to regret his decision not to sell the ball in about 6 months. How stupid can a fan be ? Jeter or some manhattan hedge fund owner wanting to add to his collection -easily kid could have walked away with 250k. Silly.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Akamai

      Always got the hand out looking for a gimme, right?
      You know, some things in this life aren't about "money". Some things you do because in your heart & soul, you just know it's the "right thing" to do. Some things you do because it is "pono". (Now, go look that up. Hint, it's Hawaiian.)

      July 12, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. Matt Nord

    This guy is being so much cooler about this than I would. Man, the IRS is really in the business of raping people, isn't it?

    July 12, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. Goody

    If Lopez has to pay the tax, then Jeter should give him a "gift" to pay it. That sum would mean nothing to Jeter and is well deserved by Lopez.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Zippy

      No, if Jeter did that, the IRS would send another bill to Mr. Lopez. It's what they do, sadly.

      Jeter is a class act ... and that's from someone who hates the Yankees.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Actually, gift tax is paid by the person making the gift not the recipient. So Jeter would be on the hook not Mr. Lopez.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dave

    Christian Lopez seems to be an outstanding human being.

    The IRS needs to go elsewhere.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. sbast18

    This is ridiculous. The seats and memorabilia were GIFTS. He didn't ask for them. We should go to a flat rate system so those jerks at the IRS cant harass anyone anymore. Bunch of angry c grade students who couldn't make it anywhere else so they have fun and get even by raking anyone and everyone over the coals.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Zippy

      Agreed. A flat tax would obviate tax lawyers, the IRS in big measure, and accountants. Life would be easier.

      July 12, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
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