Derek Jeter became the first New York Yankee to go for 3,000 hits on Saturday. Jeter hit a solo home run in the third inning to become the 28th man in Major League history to ever do it. Christian Lopez, 23, was the "lucky" fan who snagged the ball. He made headlines earlier this week when he gave the ball back to Derek Jeter, a move that surprised many considering the high price the ball was estimated to go for on the open market. After Lopez gave the ball back to the Yankee organization, he was given bats, balls and jerseys all signed by the Yankee captain. Oh, and tickets in a Champions Suite in the new Yankee Stadium for the remainder of the regular season, plus tickets to any postseason games. All of this, of course, has a price. And the government has to get paid.
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The New York Times' John Leland did the math to figure out what kind of price tag Lopez could be hit with come tax time. Leland called tax experts and professors who have worked with similar situations before. One professor mentioned when Oprah Winfrey gave each member of her audience a car ("You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!") and then they were hit with a $7,000 bill from the IRS. Leland's math goes like this:
On the auction site SportsMemorabilia.com, baseballs signed by Jeter were being sold for up to $600, jerseys for close to $1,000 and bats for $900.
The tickets to the 32 remaining home games (after Sunday) have a combined face value of between $44,800 and $73,600, according to the team’s Web site. The tickets could be worth a lot more if the Yankees play deep into October. Steven Bandini, a tax partner at the accounting firm Zapken & Loeb, said that if the goodies were valued modestly at $50,000, they would likely carry a tax burden of around $14,000.
Christian Lopez revealed to reporters earlier this week that he has over $100,000 in student debt after graduating from St. Lawrence University. This... won't help. Leland does leave some hope in his report. A Columbia law professor who helped the IRS work with Mark McGwire's record-breaking home run ball told him that an argument could be made that if the tickets and memorabilia from the Yankees were gifts for his generosity, instead of as a payment, they would not be taxable.