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Jeter Ball Could Stick Fan With $14,000 Tax Bill

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"Christian Lopez revealed to reporters earlier this week that he has over $100,000 in student debt after graduating from St. Lawrence University. This...won't help."

So says Connor Simpson of The Atlantic Wire, after John Leland of the New York Times explained that Christian Lopez, the fan who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit over the weekend, could owe as much as $14,000 to the IRS for...yes, giving the ball to the Yankees' captain.

Writes Leland:

“There’s different ways the I.R.S. could try to characterize a ball caught by a fan in the stands,” said Andrew D. Appleby, a tax associate at the Sutherland Asbill & Brennan law firm in New York who has written about the tax implications of souvenir baseballs. “But when the Yankees give him all those things, it’s much more clear-cut that he owes taxes on what they give him.”

"All those things" the Yankees gave Lopez included "four Champions Suite tickets for their remaining home games and any postseason games, along with three bats, three balls and two jerseys, all signed by Jeter. For Sunday’s game the team gave him four front-row Legends seats, which sell for up to $1,358.90 each."

Steven Bandini of accounting firm Zapken & Loeb tells Leland that "if the items were valued modestly at $50,000, they would probably carry a tax burden of about $14,000."

Though Simpson says Leland "leaves some hope [for Lopez] in his report" as "a Columbia law professor who helped the IRS work with Mark McGwire's record-breaking home run ball told him that an argument could be made that if the tickets and memorabilia from the Yankees were gifts for his generosity, instead of as a payment, they would not be taxable," it might be best not to rely on the taxman's generosity -- if it's worth more than $600, they want their cut.

Take game shows, for example.

Walletpop's Aaron Crowe recently explained that "non-cash game show prizes aren't just considered income but they're often overvalued at that. And taxes will have to be paid on that inflated valuation."

Some attempt creative solutions, as Mary VanPelt of Lee's Summit, Missouri did in 2007 after winning a Dodge Viper on "The Price is Right" and later "seeking donations to "help pay off the I.R.S., so she [could] keep the $86,000 car," according to the Associated Press.

Others, like Nichol and Brian Okvath of Gilbert, Arizona -- who won an "extreme makeover" for their home in 2005 -- were left "straining under the weight of unexpected utility and tax bills" and finally lost the house to foreclosure a few years later.

Of course, Derek Jeter himself hasn't always had the smoothest relationship with tax authorities, either.

In 2007, New York State went after Derek Jeter for three years of back taxes and interest for claiming Florida residency while actually living in New York.

Jeter claimed he only "worked in New York." The state Division of Tax Appeals disagreed. They settled for an undisclosed amount in 2008.

Now, if someone could just do something about players getting taxed on free tickets they give to family and friends...
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.