NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"JOCK TAX" IS BECOMING WIDE-SPREAD

August 11, 2004

"Jock taxes," which are taxes that professional athletes and their employees must pay when they play away games, are becoming more popular with state governments, according to the Tax Foundation. Moreover, they are being extended beyond professional athletes.

  • Of the 24 states with pro teams, 20 states and 6 cities have enacted jock taxes which target professional athletes, trainers, scouts and others.
  • Cincinnati is now taxing touring skateboarders, while New Jersey has begun taxing visiting lawyers.

The tax originally began when California used it to get revenge when the Chicago Bulls beat the Lakers in 1991. Then Illinois retaliated with their own jock tax. However, the tax has become unfair and cumbersome:

  • Besides targeting rich athletes, it also hits moderate income employees such as scouts and trainers; indeed, scouts' incomes range from $19,000 to $104,000, far less than professional athletes.
  • The tax is particularly unfair to athletes who come from states with no state income tax -- such as Texas-- but must subject their income to the tax of states they visit, while other professionals in Texas are not required to do so.
  • The tax creates a burden by requiring the filing of many different state income tax returns.

Moreover, the tax arbitrarily penalizes one group of professionals -- athletes, but other groups with comparable incomes, such as doctors and corporate executives -- are not subject to such taxes.

Source: David K. Hoffman and Scott A. Hodge, "Nonresident State and Local Income Taxes in the United States: The Continuing Spread of 'Jock Taxes,'" Tax Foundation, no. 130, July 2004.

 

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