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The tax man is probably going to come to the fan who caught Jeter’s 3,000th hit

Jul 12, 2011, 9:33 AM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Getty Images

You’ll recall that Christian Lopez, in exchange for giving Jeter back his 3,000th hit ball, got signed baseballs, bats, jerseys and, most significantly, Legends Suite tickets to the Yankees’ remaining home games and any playoff games this year. And that he did that instead of, you know, keeping the baseball, giving it to an auction house and then pocketing six figures for it.

Well, the New York Times broke out the calculator and talked to some tax experts in an effort to figure out how much that decision — as opposed to merely auctioning the thing off — might cost Mr. Lopez:

The tickets to the 32 remaining home games (after Sunday) have a combined face value of $44,800 to $73,600, according to the team’s Web site. The tickets could be worth a lot more if the Yankees play deep into October. Steven Bandini, a tax partner at the accounting firm Zapken & Loeb, said that if the items were valued modestly at $50,000, they would probably carry a tax burden of about $14,000.

Another tax guy the Times spoke to believed that these things could be characterized as gifts instead of prizes, in which case he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on them.  I’d certainly argue for that if I were Lopez, but if that doesn’t fly, he is at least thinking about how to deal with the taxes:

Mr. Lopez said if he had to pay taxes, he hoped he could borrow from his parents rather than sell his memorabilia.

That sound you hear is me repeatedly smacking my palm to my head. A little bit of it is also my heart breaking for this kid, but it’s mostly face-palming.

There is a suggestion toward the end of the article that the Yankees could perhaps step up and pay Lopez’s tax liabilities here. I’m not sure if that, in and of itself, would be taxable, so if you know accountants and/or tax lawyers, please chime in.

That’s all I got right now. If you need me, I’ll be busy contemplating the fungibility of cash, and wondering why more people don’t quite get this.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Jul 12, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    It is one thing to be a generous human being, doing what is perceived to be the right thing, but this kid was just plain dumb. He is a “few hundred thousand” dollars in debt and needs to worry about his financial future. Foolish move, I don’t care how much of a Jeter fanboy he is. I hear sports commentators on TV are applauded the kid, saying they would have given the ball to Jeter as well. That is easy to say when one is financially secure. However, this kid is operating a deficit here while working at a cell phone store. The kid should have consulted with his parents and thought about his future, not whether he could be chummy with Jeter for 15 minutes.

    • halladaysbiceps - Jul 12, 2011 at 9:47 AM

      Good Doctor,

      Honestly, this story is getting tiring to hear. I can’t seem to escape it. I’m a big radio sports talk listener as I hear it as I work throughout the day from home and work. That’s almost all they have been talking about for the last 3 days. It’s kind of sickening, really. I’m almost wishing to hear more football talk at this point. And I hate to hear football talk in the middle of the summer when baseball is going on.

      • adenzeno - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:18 AM

        I just hate to hear football talk

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:45 PM

        I’ve been emotionally exhausted—see what I did there, Beep Beep?—by all the Jeter 3K talk for several weeks now.

    • halladaysbiceps - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:32 AM

      adenzeno,

      I like to talk football in the winter after the World Series. Just not in the summer when baseball is playing. Just making the point that I would rather hear that then about this kid that got Jeter’s ball anymore.

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        We hear so much Eagles talk around here anyway, that I just abide it before about September—and even then, it needs to take a back seat to the Phightins—and after the season is over. Sorry, Joe, Jeff and Andy, but I am not all about the Birds.

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:49 PM

        Of course I meant “…that I just CAN’T abide it before about September…”

        Hey, Gator, how’s that EDIT FUNCTION thing of yours going?

  2. Matt - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    It’s been a whilie since I was dozing off in my tax law class…but I’m pretty sure that the Yanks’ tax payment would itself be taxable income, but would lower his personal tax burden because instead of having to pay the 14,000 of taxes on the 50,000, he would only need to pay on the 14,000 (which the Yanks could again pay for, I suppose, and then keep paying the resulting taxes until it’s an inconsequential number).

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      So in other words, he should have kept the ball and auctioned it off.

      • Matt - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:29 AM

        Yes. Because while he’d still have taxes to pay on the proceeds he’d at least have the cash to do so. I don’t believe the IRS doesn’t accept Yankees tickets as payment, and the aforementioned student loan companies only accept the blood of your first born.

  3. Jonny 5 - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    It’s not like those 2,000 $ per game seats are easy to sell either…

    I think Jetes needs to step up and help this guy. He must.

  4. yankeesfanlen - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    Talk about much ado about nothing. There’s a dark, smoke-filled office in the back of Yankee Stadium that will make this kid whole, and then some. Do you really think the Yankees organization is going to let the kid go to The Pestilence in 6 months saying that his life is ruined because he caught DJ3K?

    • FC - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      “…The Pestilence in 6 months saying that his life is ruined because he caught DJ3K?”

      Sounds like he would have been better off if he caught H1N1.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 12, 2011 at 5:24 PM

        That was freaking hilarious.

  5. twofistedslopper - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    When I’m not reading about baseball, I moonlight as a CPA.

    * Matt is right on about the taxes should the Yankees pay for that, it’s just additional income and will be taxed as such.
    * I’m not up on “gifts” from corporate entities to individuals, but if it’s considered as such, the book expense would be basically a loss and would have to be added back for tax income and not taxable for Gomez. Gifts between individuals (parents to kids, etc) is fairly straight forward. However, if it is a gift, Gomez can do whatever he wants with the boot (ie resell it).
    * Just speculating here, do not take this as 100% correct because not all of the details are known.

    Based upon the nonplussed look on Jeter’s face in that picture, he should have auctioned it.

  6. halladaysbiceps - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Just a thought. What name will be remembered more in the next 10 years? Christian Lopez or Steve Bartman?

    • jimbo1949 - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:55 AM

      1 vote for Bartman, he’s got 8 years seniority.

  7. Jonny 5 - Jul 12, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    “Based upon the nonplussed look on Jeter’s face in that picture, he should have auctioned it.”

    It just screams ” Get a picture folks, as I shake hands with possibly the dumbest mother(&^&^ to ever walk the earth, cause I would have made me pay dearly for that ball, kinda like I did to this guys favorite team, the Yankees…..” He looks like he’s holding back fits of laughter now that I’m looking closer.

    Don’t get me wrong, that’s not how I think at all. Noooo…….. It just looks like that’s what Jetes is thinking in that pic. Yeah, that’s the ticket…………..

  8. uyf1950 - Jul 12, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Everyone’s heard the saying “nothing is certain but death and TAXES”. Mr. Lopez is going to get an example of the Taxes portion of that saying sooner then he thought. Just my opinion but if a tax bill is due. Jeter should belly up to the bar and take care of it for the kid, not the Yankees.

  9. ngearhart1981 - Jul 12, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Jeter’s making “This guy just farted” face.

  10. Andrew - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    I tried defending Lopez’s decision in an earlier post here on HBT, but his decisions are making it harder and harder for me to stand behind him.

  11. bigharold - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    A couple of things to consider;

    1. Nobody really knows what that ball was worth. I seriously doubt it was or is worth some of the numbers that have been bandied about. While I would say it was worth low to mid 5 figures it certainly wasn’t a 100K plus trophy. Aside from the fact that the memorabilia market has cooled considerably since the economic downturn this was not a record that transcended baseball. If fact 27 other guys are in the 3000 hit club including one that did it with a HR. Was it of value, certainly but it wasn’t an astronomical figure.

    2. He might well end up with a tax bill for the tickets and memorabilia, .. so what. First of all he’d only need to pay taxes on the tickets he in fact used. That right there would lower the tax burden significantly unless he goes to every game for the remainder of the year. I’m a huge Yankees fan but I seriously doubt that I could get to half the remaining games if they Yankees provided me the tickets AND transportation door to door.

    3. Say after all is said and done he still ends up with a $15K tax bill. Simple, as Len pointed out the Yankees write him a check to pay the tax bill, say $30-40K. That will pay the tax bill, including the additional money and likely leave him enough to do some pretty decent Christmas shopping. The Yankees are not going to risk the bad publicity if the kid ends up in tax trouble.

    4. It boggles the mind that people want to give this kid grief because he did what he thought was the right thing. Had he auctioned the ball off I’m 10,000% certain there would be many of the same people shooting their mouths off about the mercenary nature of Yankee fans, .. how it reflects poorly on Jeter and the Yankees collective reputations that one of his own fans would “hold him up” over something so important to Jeter.

    I had tickets to Friday’s game that were in the lower RF stands, coincidentally exactly where Jeter hits a lot of his HRs. It occurred to me that, although highly unlikely, Jeter could hit a HR to RF for his 3000 hit. I knew if I caught it it was going back to Jeter in much the same way this kid gave it back to Jeter and for the same reasons. A lot of people would say that was dumb but I care more about what I think of myself than what others think. Apparently Christian Lopez feels the same way and for people to question his intelligence because he chose to be true to himself is petty and small minded. News lash; money DOES NOT make you happy, it only allows you latitude in choosing your misery. The kind of money that the ball could reasonably expect to bring, .. even if the 100K figure was correct which wasn’t likely, .. after taxes is not a life altering amount of money. So one might as well do what they think the right thing is, .. whether that be keep, give back or sell the ball.

    It’s difficult achieving success in the world being yourself and it’s impossible to do so trying to be something your not. I’ve no problem with somebody catching that ball and holding it for random for all they think it’s worth. I can’t see why those that think that way feel it’s either stupid not to agree with them or that they are correct it making such a big deal over Mr. Lopez’ choice in the matter.

    • FC - Jul 12, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      I’m not convinced the ball would be valued that low. Just by virtue of being:
      1) Derek Jeter
      2) The first Yankee with 3K hits

      I’m pretty sure he could have gotten Jeter to at least pay his school loans plus taxes. Remember for Jeter anything under 500k is chump change (which isn’t to say he’s going to just toss money willy- nilly, he will definitely try to get the best price he can) but for a priceless piece of memorabilia, it could have been painted as: Hey scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. It’s not about greed. If opportunity knocks and gives you the chance to make life go a little smoother then take it. No one here is saying he should have tried to “hold up” Jeter. As a matter of fact a lot of folks here have been talking about Debt relief, how the heck can that labeled greedy?

      • bigharold - Jul 12, 2011 at 4:59 PM

        “I’m pretty sure he could have gotten Jeter to at least pay his school loans plus taxes.”

        Which would have been, assuming his school loans were $200K in excess of $300K. That’s a lot of coin for a ball that is merely going in his trophy case. If anything, it’s more likely that the Yankees pony up the money but even that is thin. I doubt that the Yankees want to start a policy that they need to pay for these type of things. If A-Rod ever gets around to breaking Bond’s HR record the asking price would start a 5 mil.

        “Remember for Jeter anything under 500k is chump change…”

        I’d wager he doesn’t see it that way.

        I’ve no issue with somebody insisting on cash compensation I just don’t understand why there is so much talk about Lopez doing what he thought was right. And, I don’t think that ball is worth nearly what some people think it’s worth.

  12. foreverchipper10 - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    These tickets are a gift. If the IRS doesn’t see that then they are blind. Maybe people should have to pay taxes on anything they receive for their birthday or Christmas or any other random act of kindness. I want to smash my face off my desk when I hear things like this.

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