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  • Writer's pictureRandall Fisher

The IRS and the baseball

Life does takes some strange turns.

A baseball fan goes to a game, sits in the outfield, probably grabs a beer and a hotdog and waits for excitement. Little does he know that the gods of fate have sat right next to him.

An all-star shortstop chasing a hall-of-fame milestone crosses into immortality in a big way, driving a ball into the left-field seats for hit number 3,000. The number is symbolic because no one with that many hits that is eligible to go in the hall of fame is not in the hall of fame. (Unfortunately, this excludes Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose; but that is a column for a different time.)

The ball ends up in the possession of the fan, who either ate his dog and drank his beer, put them down before the big hit or dropped them in the excitement. I don’t know if he caught the ball on the fly or it bounced to him from someone else’s miscue. All this is backstory drama and not relevant to the plot.

The issue is that he ended up with the ball.

In advance of the game, collectors estimated that the ball could be worth as much as $300,000. Not a bad night’s work for a young man apparently a college student or graduate (news reports talk about him having student loans that he has to pay.)

So what does our college fan do? Being a true fan, he asks to meet Jeter and gives him the ball. Jeter graciously agrees to meet with him and his employer, the New York Yankees, reward the fan’s generosity by giving him some season tickets for the remainer of the season and other trinkets to make him the envy of his friends and neighbors.

End of story?

Not quite.

Catching the ball was not just an athletic fete. According to stories reported on NBC citing sources at the IRS, the government is considering the act of catching a $250-$300,000 baseball income. The act of returning the ball to the person who hit it to him is an act of a gift in excess of the federal gift tax limits requiring him to file a gift tax return and we are not quite sure of the government’s take on accepting a “gift” from the Yankees for the seats and trinkets.

It might be that he “sold” the ball for the value of the seats and trinkets. It might be that someone will say he got “paid” for participating in the publicity. Not sure what craziness will work out of this.

The link to the NBC story is at the bottom of this post. You can follow it there to see the latest.

The bottom line is that it only isn’t baseball where this type of craziness can occur. People who start saying, “Oh, I’ll just put my son/daughter on a deed to a house” have either created a gift or income, depending on how they treat it. Most times people don’t treat it and that becomes the problem.

When working on re-arranging your estate or your business, consult your professionals. Don’t step into what today’s favorite fan stepped into.  And one last thing to remember. When you go to the ballpark, don’t forget your glove.

Good luck and good hunting. Here’s the link:

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