Former NFL Player Wins Case Over Cleveland’s “Jock Tax” Methods

Most people dreaming of a career in professional sports that will take them around the country to play for huge crowds in major U.S. cities are probably imagining the glitz and glamor that goes with that job. But then there’s the un-fun parts, like paying taxes in each one of those states, as well as some cities that levy taxes against income earned locally. One former NFL player filed a lawsuit against Cleveland’s so-called “jock tax,” not to dispute that he owed taxes there, but because of how the city calculated what he owed.

Former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillemeyer won a lawsuit today in Ohio Supreme Court claiming Cleveland unfairly taxed him during his playing career when it came time for him to pay income taxes based on his time working there in the NFL, reports the Chicago Tribune.

In his case going back to 2007, he argued that he was overtaxed for the games he played in that city. Cleveland had imposed a 2% tax on income allocable to the city, and determined that 5% of his income was taxable for the one game he played with the Bears each year in the city for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Not so fast, Hillenmeyer argued — he said players are compensated not just for the games they play, but for the work they put in practicing, attending strategy meetings and promotional activities. He said that his duty days added up to 163 days those years, only two of which each year were spent in Cleveland.

Based on his calculations of the time spent in Cleveland, he should only have owed about 1.25% each year, he argued in the court papers. The court agreed in a unanimous opinion, finding that Cleveland’s tax method violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

“Cleveland’s power to tax reaches only that portion of a nonresident’s compensation that was earned by work performed in Cleveland,” the opinion said. “The games-played method reaches income for work that was performed outside of Cleveland, and thus Cleveland’s income tax violates due process as applied to NFL players such as Hillenmeyer.”

He’s due a partial refund of the tax paid, the court said, which he claims comes down to a total refund of $5,062 for the three years.

Former Chicago Bear wins suit over Cleveland’s ‘jock tax’ [Chicago Tribune]

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