Super Bowl Party at the Michigan Department of Revenue

January 31, 2006

The Super Bowl is a joyous day when countless Americans come together to celebrate the culmination of another football season. Little did we know it will also be a celebratory day for Michigan and Detroit tax collectors. The reason is the imposition of the little know “jock tax.”

The jock tax is described in a 2004 Tax Foundation paper, Nonresident State and Local Income Taxes in the United States: The Continuing Spread of “Jock Taxes”:

More and more state governments are using controversial “jock taxes” to extend state income taxes to residents of other states. So-called “jock taxes” require traveling professional athletes and other team employees to pay income taxes in every state where games are played.

The jock tax began with California trying to get revenge on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls for beating the Lakers in 1991. Illinois fought back with a retaliatory tax the next year. Since then, many other states have joined in.

Both Michigan and the city of Detroit will pocket large amounts of revenue from the Super Bowl due to their jock taxes. As a Sports Illustrated article discusses, Detroit alone stands to rake in an estimated $200,000 for the one day event.

As jock taxes remain a popular method of adding revenue to state and city coffers, there arises the danger that lawmakers will use them to levy higher tax rates on people in particular professions. This is just the case in Washington, where lawmakers are considering imposing a jock tax on visiting professional athletes. Since Washington does not have an income tax, athletes would be subject to an additional tax that is levied just on them.

The principles of sound tax policy dictate that taxes be neutral, fair and levied on the broadest base possible. A tax, such as the jock tax, that is levied on just one group of people violates all these tenets.


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