While some of the defensive stars of the National Football League excel at tackling running backs and wide receivers, it’s often quite a challenge for them to take down Uncle Sam when it comes to filing taxes with the IRS.
Federal, State, & Local Income Taxes For NFL Players
No matter where you earn income in the United States, you’ll likely have to pay a federal income tax on it by filing Form 1040 with the IRS. This rule applies to NFL players and all professional athletes.
There are 22 states and Washington, D.C. that currently serve as the home to all 32 NFL teams. Out of those states, 18 of them have a state income tax that NFL players are responsible for covering by filing state income tax returns for each state in which they play that levies an income tax.
In addition, there are 9 U.S. cities in which NFL teams are based that charge income earners a city tax. This is simply one more potential tax an NFL quarterback or punter could face when playing a home game or on the road.
The Jock Tax For NFL Players
The so-called jock tax is a form of income tax faced by the good majority of NFL players who travel around the country to take on their rivals. The jock tax is levied on individuals who conduct a trade when visiting a certain city or state for income-earning purposes.
Since no city or state has the resources to carefully track income earned by visitors, the individuals who wind up with a target on their backs from local tax authorities are those in high-profile professions and the highest income tax brackets, such as NFL players. This is because their work schedules and salaries are made available to the public through news sources like ESPN or websites like NFL.com. A city or state tax authority can easily determine how much a player for the New England Patriots makes – and then find out when he is playing in Kansas City, Denver, or Seattle in order to collect this jock tax from the player’s income earned in that location.
To break it down more specifically, a jock tax can be calculated by how many so-called duty days an NFL player spends participating in a game function. This may include an actual game on Sunday afternoon, pre-game meetings, or practice sessions held in preparation for a game. Keep in mind that a team may arrive in a city a few days before a scheduled game for all of these purposes. Injured players who travel to other cities with their respective teams are also on the hook for the jock tax.
The Bottom Line on Taxes For NFL Players
The average salary for an NFL player currently stands at about $2 million. This amount automatically puts most pro football players in the highest income tax bracket, which is currently taxed at 39.6%. While members of an NFL team’s practice squad may earn under $100,000 annually and would thus have a smaller tax bill, most players owe huge amounts of money to the IRS and other tax agencies each year. So, while a player like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson might sign a multiyear contract worth $100 million, don’t forget about the large cut of that money that winds up in the hands of Uncle Sam.
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