Baseball is unforgiving for the generous. A pitcher serves up a meaty pitch, and the batter hits a home run, never giving credit to the man who threw the ball. A starry-eyed fan gives a trophy to a legend, and now he’s about to get hit with a tax burden.
The story begins with New York Yankee Derek Jeter, who on Saturday night became the 28th player in baseball history to achieve 3,000 hits. It was a memorable night, too, for 23-year-old Christian Lopez, the Yankee fan who grabbed the ball, along with much-deserved gratitude. Unfortunately, it’s a dream that could be ruined by the Internal Revenue Service, as The New York Times reports.
Rather than keep the souvenir for himself (which could be worth six figures), Lopez graciously gave it to Jeter and took home some pretty great gifts as a result: four Champions Suite tickets for the team’s remaining home games and any postseason games, three bats, three balls, and two jerseys—all signed by Jeter—not to mention four front-row seats for last Sunday’s game, too. All told, it’s a gift valued upwards of $75,000 or more.
Enter the IRS. Tax attorneys tell the Times that Lopez could owe big:
In such gratitude begins tax liability, said Paul Caron, a tax professor at the University of Cincinnati law school and author of Tax Prof Blog.
He recalled a 2004 incident in which Oprah Winfrey gave 276 cars to the audience of her show, who were surprised to discover they incurred tax obligations of around $7,000 . . .
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.
The IRS won’t speculate on Lopez’s tax liabilities, but it looks like there’s a good chance Lopez could face some liabilities, just as if he’d won the lotto or the Yankees handed him a check. Taxes are everywhere, and unfortunately, this episode shows that you can get hit with a big bill even for catching a home run ball.