Monday, August 13, 2007

Catch Ball, Pay Tax

Many years ago, when soccer-style place kickers with unspellable foreign names first began kicking field goals in the NFL, a friend of mine used to imitate their broken English, post-game interviews by saying "Kick ball, cash check."

That phrase came to mind amid the news frenzy after Barry Bonds hit his record-breaking home run. A college student named Matt Murphy caught the ball, and managed to hang onto it during a scrum. The good news for Murphy is that experts estimate the ball is worth around $600,000. The bad news is the ball represents taxable income. That means Murphy could end up owing the IRS more than $200,000.

If this is truly a case of "Catch ball, pay tax," wouldn't all those other guys who tried to take the ball from Murphy be guilty of attempted grand theft? If he had handed the ball to a friend, would Murphy have to file a gift tax return? Could Murphy put the ball in a trust? What happens to the tax bill if Barry leaves the game in disgrace and its value drops?"

Strange things come from a strange tax code. Too bad we have to pay bright minds to dig up the answers to such questions.

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