Rams Win Cost California Nearly 1/2 Million in Jock Tax Revenue

As the Los Angeles Ram’s advance to his year’s Super Bowl the State of California ends up the ones paying!

INTRODUCTION

When the Los Angeles Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints in overtime to advance to this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta Georgia, Saints fans were not the only ones who mourned the loss, the State of California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) also mourned as the state lost nearly a half million in tax revenue.

California, which is notoriously aggressive in their approach to taxing non-resident athletes – also known as a jock tax – having profited $927,924 from Super Bowl 50, this year find themselves on the receiving end. With a California team in the Super Bowl for the first time in six years and the game being played outside of the state, California will now need to provide a full credit for taxes paid by Rams players to Georgia. Under California law, when a player on a California based team plays a game outside of the state, that player will receive a full tax credit for any jock taxes paid to that state on their resident California return.

REVENUE GENERATED IN TOTAL TAX

Since those playing in Sunday’s game are contractually obligated to play for their team, the State of Georgia can allocate not only their bonus from the game but also their entire 2019 salary into the state’s apportionment formula.

As noted above, Georgia’s gain is California’s and Massachusetts’s loss, as home states provide their resident athletes with a full or partial credit for taxes paid to other states. This credit is in place to prevent the players from facing double taxation on their income.

No matter who played in this year’s Super Bowl, the state of Georgia will collect non-resident tax on those participants. By playing in the Super Bowl, both the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots will need to allocate their players’ salaries into the state and consequently the tax owed.

Since the payrolls for the Rams and Patriots are different, Georgia’s tax revenue generated by hosting this year’s Super Bowl will be slightly impacted by which team wins, with the net difference between the two a mere $50.

Georgia Income Received from Super Bowl – Rams win

As the chart above indicates, the revenue generated by the two teams to the state of Georgia, if the Rams win Sunday, is $816,094. Should the Patriots win, the numbers change but the result is nearly identical as the total revenue generated to the state is $816,041.

Georgia Income Received from Super Bowl – Patriots win


The previous section showed the overall tax liability caused by playing this year’s Super Bowl in Georgia, but what is the effect on individual players? In order to answer that we will use one player from each team as a case study.

Aaron Donald (Los Angeles Rams)

Aaron Donald is scheduled to earn $9.108 million in 2019. It should be noted that even before playing in the Super Bowl, Aaron Donald will have earned an additional $83,000 by winning both the Divisional round and Conference Championship. By playing in the Super Bowl, he will receive a $59,000 bonus should they lose and $118,000 should they win, increasing his total wages to a maximum of $9,309,000.

Including off season workouts, training camp, and post-season games, Aaron Donald will be employed for approximately 195 days next season (dependent on when training camps opens). With a total of seven days in Atlanta for the Super Bowl, Donald’s apportion to Georgia would be $334,169, should they win, and $332,051 should they lose. It is important to note that Donald will pay additional tax to Georgia when the Rams visit the Atlanta Falcons during the 2019 season.

Georgia Allocation Income – Aaron Donald

By allocating Donald’s full salary to Georgia, the resulting tax rate is much greater than if the tax had been on the actual potential bonus. Ironically, the total tax paid to Georgia can be taken as a tax credit in California, lowering his California tax by that amount.

It is interesting to note that even though Donald’s $40 million signing bonus was earned this season, it was received in 2018, not 2019 and will not be allocated to Georgia. Had he received his bonus in 2019, California would have had to provide Donald with an additional tax credit of $68,458, win or lose.

Tom Brady (New England Patriots)

With this being Tom Brady’s ninth Super Bowl, and third in a row, he has had plenty of experience with the additional tax paid for playing in the Super Bowl.

Georgia Allocation Income – Tom Brady

Resident Tax Credit

Since Tom Brady and Aaron Donald are residents of their respective states, they will also owe tax on this income in their home states. To avoid the possibility of double taxation, Massachusetts and California provides a credit for taxes paid to other states, which is limited to their tax rate.

Since Massachusetts tax rate of 5.05% is lower than Georgia’s rate (5.75%), Brady will still owe an additional jock tax liability to the state of Georgia of $4,875 (should they lose) and $4,895 (should they win).

In Donald’s case, a credit of the total tax paid to Georgia will be provided by California since California’s tax rate (13.3%) is more than double that of Georgia’s.

SUMMARY

As the above analysis shows, state tax issues for professional athletes can be confusing and potentially costly. As well as being liable for Georgia and their resident state tax, players who play in this year’s Super Bowl will need to allocate their income into each state and city jurisdiction in which they play throughout the year. With 20 of the 24 states in which professional athletes play implementing their own version of the ‘jock tax’, it is important to have professional guidance from an individual who specializes in understanding all the unique issues that face professional athletes.

ALAN POGROSZEWSKI is an Associate Professor of Sports Studies at St. John Fisher College and the President of his own tax consulting business whose clientele include professional athletes performing services on three separate continents. Prior to accepting his position at St. John Fisher College, Mr. Pogroszewski was the Vice President of Business Operations for Sports Consulting Group, a firm that specializes in the representation of professional hockey players. Mr. Pogroszewski received his M.B.A. from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1996 and his M.S. in Taxation from St. John Fisher in 2003

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