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For pro athletes, taxes aren't all fun and games

The San Francisco Giants will shell out more than $166 million for player salaries this year. The money is not exactly distributed equally. According to, the highest-paid player on the team is Hunter Pence, with an annual paycheck of $18.7 million. The lowest paid player, Matt Duffy, is earning $509,000. Both earn tidy sums, but it's hard not to wonder how much of that they actually take home.

Inquiring minds apparently found at least part of an answer to that question a few weeks ago, when Andrew McCutchen, center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, left his pay stub in the locker room at Chicago's Wrigley Field. A picture quickly found its way to social media.

No one was surprised by McCutchen's salary -- it's right there for everyone to see on ESPN -- but many were surprised at how much went to taxes and where it all went. Five states and four cities were taking a cut. McCutchen was on the hook to every state and almost every city he had played in during that pay period. Sports industry insiders call it the "jock tax."

The most overwhelming part for players new to the pros is the sheer number of forms they have to deal with at tax time. One professional hockey player said he was overwhelmed by the pile of paper. But, he admitted, the total was manageable. Players in other sports would apparently disagree about just how manageable the totals are.

Players aren't just taxed for the days they play an official game in another state. The tax is based on "duty days," and players are on duty for practices and meetings as well as for games. All they have to do is show up on professional business, and the tax is triggered.

California has a unique place in the history of the jock tax. We'll share the story in our next post.

Source: Portland Press Herald, "Pro athletes pay a big price for their success – in taxes," Mike Lowe, June 28, 2015

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