As you may have heard, Derek Jeter hit a home run for his 3,000th hit on Saturday and it has resulted in fanfare that usually follows noteworthy accomplishments by media darling sports superheroes-cum-ladykillers.
What also has become news is the classy fan who caught the baseball. Sure Christian Lopez has over a hundred grand in school debt but since he’s a stand-up guy, he gave the ball to DJ because “it rightfully belonged to Jeter.” Also, if Lopez had kept it, everyone in the Bronx would have hunted him down like Osama bin Laden.
Anyhoo, after catching the ball, Lopez was whisked away by security to meet with Yankee President Randy Levine, who said, “What do you want?” Answer:
[T]he Yankees gave Mr. Lopez four Champions Suite tickets for their remaining home games and any postseason games, along with three bats, three balls and two jerseys, all signed by Jeter. For Sunday’s game the team gave him four front-row Legends seats, which sell for up to $1,358.90 each.
The Times rang up Paul Caron who reminded everyone that when Oprah gave her audience cars back in ’04, they all incurred taxes and Lopez would be no different. The Times then breaks down the value of the loot:
On SportsMemorabilia.com, an auction site, baseballs signed by Jeter were being sold for up to $600, jerseys for close to $1,000 and bats for $900.
The tickets to the 32 remaining home games (after Sunday) have a combined face value of $44,800 to $73,600, according to the team’s Web site. The tickets could be worth a lot more if the Yankees play deep into October. 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.
Elie Mystal, editor of our old sister site Above the Law wrote me, “[Taxing the memorabilia/tickets] [is] the kind of thing that makes people hate the Government.” Elie’s statement struck me as odd for a couple of reasons: 1) He is unabashed Mets fan and I would expect him to wish nothing but bad luck on Jeter, Lopez and the entire Yankee organization after this overt jerking off by media; 2) He is also an unabashed liberal which means that he should love the government and by virtue, love taxes. Not because taxes are lovable like puppies or grandmothers but because they build roads, fund public schools and go to pay salaries for government employees (that includes lawyers, accountants, engineers and whole bunch of people that aren’t IRS agents).
The items have value. Sorta like cash. Cash that is deposited into your bank account when your employer pays you for performing average work at your job. That cash gets there only after your employer has withheld taxes from your paycheck. Lopez was handed these tickets and memorabilia on a pinstriped platter. FREE. OF. TAX. By all accounts, he doesn’t have the income to purchase those items. If he did, he would have already paid taxes on that income. Simple.
Of course some (who are obviously unapologetically biased) might argue that these items were gifts and not taxable:
“The legal question of whether it is a gift or prize is whether the transferor is giving the property out of detached and disinterested generosity,” [Columbia Law] Professor Graetz said. “It’s hard for me, not being a Yankee fan, to think of the Yankees as being in the business of exercising generosity to others, but there’s a reasonable case to be made that these were given out of generosity.”
Right. Gifts. Gifts are what people give you when you get married. Gifts are what you give your friends when they move to the suburbs because you’ll never see them again. Gifts are what you give your friends’ (who moved to the fucking suburbs) kids because if you show up empty handed, you look like a complete dick.
These items are not gifts. The Yankees wanted the ball, Levine asked Lopez what he wanted and he told them what items would do the trick. TA-DA, we’ve got a deal. Besides, I’m guessing if Christian Lopez is the kind of guy to hand over the ball that was Jeter’s 3,000th hit, he isn’t too caught up thinking about the tax consequences of falling bassackwards into some tickets and priceless (to a Yankees fan, anyway) memorabilia.
UPDATE: Standup guy status CONFIRMED:
“Worse comes to worse, I’ll have to pay the taxes,” he told the Daily News on Monday. “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.”