NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Jock Tax Gives Professional Athletes Additional Burden

April 15, 2015

Most people file state income taxes in the states where they reside. However, professional athletes have an additional burden: They must file returns for many of the states and some of the cities where they play, a levy commonly known as the jock tax. Jock taxes are a multistate thicket of complexity on top of the usual taxing complexities of taxes.

Taxpayers typically get credits on their state tax returns for taxes paid in other states, unless they reside in states that do not tax income, such as Florida and Texas, which are popular places for pro athletes to live.

Most states and cities base jock taxes by measuring "duty days". A few states divide the number of games played in the state by the number of games in the season.

Pittsburgh's tax, for example, known as the Nonresident Sports Facility Usage Fee, has been in place since 2005. Teams pay the city directly and withhold income from players' checks. City jock taxes come in addition to state jock taxes — so Pennsylvania's 3.07 percent state income tax is added to Pittsburgh's 3 percent flat fee for a blended tax rate of more than 6 percent. City taxes are typically not credited on state returns, though there is an exception is New Jersey, which allows credits for city taxes paid in Philadelphia.

Tax deductions for athletes include agent fees, union dues, business meals (including rookies who are expected to take veterans to dinner in many team sports) and expenses related to training, including personal trainers, training equipment, massage therapy and travel expenses that are directly related to training.

Source: Erik Brady, "Tax season quite taxing for professional athletes," USA TODAY, April 14, 2015.


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