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New York Post

 

Big Apple's Bite

November 19, 2007

By E. J. McMahon

PRINTER FRIENDLY

AS teammates on the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez get to perform on a stage suited to their outsized talents. But Jeter's dispute with state tax officials highlights the price such stars must pay to strut their stuff in Gotham.

Jeter claims his main residence for more than a decade has been Florida, which has no state income tax. However, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance says his primary residence from 2001 to 2003 was actually Manhattan - where the combined state and city income tax peaked at 12.15 percent (including temporary surtaxes that expired in 2005).

Not that the Yankees shortstop has completely avoided New York taxes all these years: The state collects income tax on all salaries earned in New York, including a big chunk of the $38 million Jeter reportedly was paid during the years in question. But the city income tax applies only to residents of the five boroughs - which is one big reason why Jeter's attorneys claim that his luxury apartment at the Trump World Tower has been more like a hotel room than home since he bought it in 2001.

To defeat the state's tax claim, Jeter needs to prove that his real "domicile" was in Florida and that he spent less than half the year in the city during each of the three years at issue. If not, he'll also be subject to city income tax on his Yankees salary for those years - and, presumably, to added state income tax on non-wage income, from his investments and endorsements.

As evidence in support of its argument that Jeter lived mainly in Manhattan from 2001 to 2003, the state asserts he was "immersed in the New York community." (Memo to sports icons: watch those community "immersions"!)

Meanwhile, as Jeter's tax trouble was becoming public, third-baseman Alex Rodriguez was reportedly preparing to sign a new 10-year deal with the Yanks.

Moving to New York four seasons ago was a change of climate for A-Rod in more ways than one. Until then, he'd toiled his entire career for teams in Texas and Washington state, which impose no state or local income tax. He made his permanent home in Florida.

But once he started reporting for work in The Bronx in 2004, Rodriguez owed Albany a piece of every million he earned there.

Rodriguez also has a Manhattan apartment - but if he really calls New York home, his accountant must not be yelling loudly enough.

Aside from his top-bracket status on the federal 1040 income tax form, Rodriguez didn't lead a tax-free existence before moving to the Big Apple. Like other professional athletes, he has to pro-rate his earnings on a "duty day" basis, and file income tax returns with every state his teams visits. So tax collectors in places like Michigan, Ohio, California, Maryland and Missouri (not to mention New York) could all lay claim to slices of his $21 million salary.

Still, at least half A-Rod's salary was free of state income tax as long as he played his home games in Arlington, Texas and Seattle, Wash. Moving to a New York team - even with continued Florida residency - significantly increased his tax bite, even though his financial managers undoubtedly take steps to shelter much of his income.

Yet the high New York taxes apparently haven't stopped Rodriguez from opting to stay in the Big Apple for the rest of his career. Some politicians may view his decision as further proof that taxes aren't the prime factor in high-earners' decisions on where to locate.

This is obviously true - up to a point. Former Yankee skipper Joe Torre, for example, quickly accepted a job managing the LA Dodgers, even though he'll pay higher state income taxes in California than he did as a resident of New York's Westchester County.

But the superstars of business, sports and entertainment are rarified exceptions to the rule that taxes matter. For every multi-millionaire celebrity who views New York taxes as the price of admission to the world's most glamorous playground, there are tens of thousands of lesser mortals who have no other choice. And Jeter's case shows that even multi-millionaires will do what they can to legally minimize their exposure to New York's giant tax bite.

Of course, for many New Yorkers, the chance to root for a winning team at Yankee Stadium is among the many intangible benefits of putting up with the taxes, traffic and sky-high living costs of the city. The Yankees have continued to set new attendance records, despite significant price hikes necessitated by the team's ever-rising payroll.

What about the guy who signs the Yankees' paychecks and profits from their on-field exertions? Well, state and local taxes have never been much of a personal issue for George Steinbrenner - of low-tax Tampa, Fla.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/seven/11192007/postopinion/opedcolumnists/big_apples_bite_923099.htm?&page=1

 

 
 
 

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