Roughing the Passer: Congress Won’t Find Much Revenue from Taxing the NFL

September 19, 2013

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) thinks that sports leagues should pay income taxes.

“[W]orking Americans are paying artificially high rates in order to subsidize special breaks for sports leagues. This is hardly fair,” Coburn said in a statement.

While we don’t necessarily disagree that sports leagues should pay income taxes, we do disagree with Coburn’s conclusion:

“Coburn's report says the NFL and NHL alone "may" generate an additional $91 million annually for the federal government if his amendment passes and the leagues are no longer tax-exempt. However, Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation recently estimated it at $109 million over the next 10 years.”

Congress could tax sports leagues all they want and not get any revenue, because sports leagues rarely finish years in the black.

For example, the NFL, a 501(c)6, lost $70 million last year and have liabilities of $227 million.

Furthermore, many of the parts of the NFL that would be a no brainer to tax, don’t actually belong to the NFL so they already are taxed:

“Money generated from sources like NFL Network, national sponsorship deals and merchandise fall under the umbrella of a for-profit company called NFL Ventures, which is owned by the 32 teams, not by the league office. Accordingly, this money is already subject to taxation.”

Was this page helpful to you?

No

Thank you!

The Tax Foundation works hard to provide insightful tax policy analysis. Our work depends on support from members of the public like you. Would you consider contributing to our work?

Contribute to the Tax Foundation

Related Articles