Seemingly every media outlet, especially in New York, seems to be speculating this week about how much tax money a lucky Yankees fan will have to owe the IRS after he caught and returned the historic home run ball hit by Derek Jeter last Saturday.
Over the weekend, Jeter scored his 3,000th Major League hit, and 23-year-old fan Christian Lopez was in the right place at the right time in Yankee Stadium. Lopez graciously returned the ball to Jeter instead of immediately putting the ball up for auction on eBay. As a reward, the Yankees offered Lopez a bunch of goodies, including free season tickets in one of the Yankees’ pricey suites for the rest of the season and any post-season games, along with merchandise such as bats, balls and caps personally signed by Jeter. The combined value has been estimated as high as $50,000, leaving Lopez potentially on the hook for up to $14,000 in taxes, according to The New York Times.
Lopez, who seems like a very upstanding person, told the Daily News that he was ready to pay the taxes, estimated by that paper as between $5,000 to $13,000, even though he already owes $100,000 in student loans.
“Worse comes to worse, I'll have to pay the taxes,” he said. “I’m not going to return the seats. I have a lot of family and friends who will help me out if need be. The IRS has a job to do, so I’m not going to hold it against them, but it would be cool if they helped me out a little on this.”
The entire question of how much Lopez owes in taxes is pure speculation, though, as he may be able to claim the Yankees tickets and merchandise as gifts. At this point, he hasn’t sold any of the merchandise he received, and he doesn’t have to file his taxes until next year.
The IRS hasn’t commented on his tax liabilities, as it traditionally doesn’t comment to the media on individual taxpayers’ situations. Of course, most folks are hoping that the IRS will be at least as gracious as Lopez and Jeter have been.
In the meantime, many of the media outlets that have been speculating about Lopez’s potential tax liability will no doubt continue to send their reporters and executives to games at Yankee Stadium without much coverage devoted to the taxes they ought to pay for their free seats and souvenirs.