Seahawks, Broncos will pay New Jersey taxes


Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman will owe New Jersey taxes for playing in the Super Bowl. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman can complain all he wants, on camera and off. But no amount of complaining will get him off the hook when he files his tax returns next year: The fact that the Super Bowl will be played in New Jersey means Sherman will owe the state a part of his salary.

That’s because New Jersey is one of a handful of states that levies a so-called “jock tax” — a tax on any out-of-state athlete who plays a game in the Garden State. The tax hits every member of a professional sports team’s roster, regardless of whether they actually take the field, as well as the broadcasters who call the games.

Players will be taxed at a rate of 8.97 percent of the salaries they earn for each day in the state. Bonuses for winning championships are subject to taxes too.

Both the Denver Broncos and the Seahawks are already in New Jersey, a week before the Super Bowl. That means a player who makes $1 million a year would owe taxes on a week’s worth of salary — about $19,200 — along with any bonus he receives. Peyton Manning, who stands to earn $15 million next year and will make either $92,000 or $46,000 whether the Broncos win or lose, will owe New Jersey somewhere around $57,000 next year.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Treasury Department told the Newark Star-Ledger that the jock tax brings the state about $10 million in revenue each year.

The jock tax started hitting athletes in the early 1990s, after California tax authorities sought some of the salary Michael Jordan earned during the NBA finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Star-Ledger reported. Illinois lawmakers responded with their own jock tax, which they dubbed “Michael Jordan’s Revenge.”

In total, 22 states levy taxes on visiting athletes. Texas, Washington and Florida are the only states with professional sports teams that don’t tax athletes — meaning if the Broncos had to visit Century Link Field in Seattle to play the Super Bowl, they would have saved money. Tennessee doesn’t have an income tax, but the state charges NBA and NHL athletes a $2,500 “privilege tax.”

Several cities, including Cleveland, Detroit and Philadelphia, levy their own local taxes. That can lead to lawsuits; former Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday is involved in litigation with Cleveland over a $3,294 tax bill from 2008, even though he was on injured reserve when the Colts played the Browns in Cleveland, the Star-Ledger said.

Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described Richard Sherman’s salary. He only makes $600,000 under his current contract.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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