Caught a Home Run Ball? Add It to Your Tax Bill

Baseball player sliding into base with baseman catching ball.
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With the 2022 Major League Baseball playoffs underway, expect to see plenty of fans carrying baseball gloves to the ballpark in the hope that they’ll catch a historic home run and cash in on the collectibles market. Just be careful what you wish for, sports fans, because that home run ball could land you a big tax bill.

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As Bloomberg reported, Judge’s 62nd home run ball has a potential value of up to $2 million in the sports collectibles market. The man who caught the ball was Cory Youmans, husband of “Bachelor Nation” alum Bri Amaranthus, People reported. As of Oct. 8, he still hadn’t decided what to do with it.

If Youmans decides to sell it on the collectibles market, the tax consequences could be substantial. Although IRS rules on rare, record-setting baseballs are fuzzy, anyone catching a potentially valuable baseball might be subject to the “treasure trove regulation.” Under this regulation, sudden financial windfalls must be immediately recognized as ordinary income.

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For a $1 million baseball, the tax bill would come to just less than $333,000 for joint filers after the 37% top marginal rate is applied. When you add state income taxes to the mix, the final tax tally could reach as high as $433,000.

Even if a fan doesn’t keep the ball and decides to give it back to the player or team, the fan could still be on the hook for a gift tax obligation that might put them in the 40% top marginal rate. That doesn’t mean the IRS would enforce either of these regulations, but it’s always possible.

Bloomberg correspondent Michael Bologna said during an interview with NPR that a lot of tax professionals believe the treasure trove rule shouldn’t apply — that an individual who catches a game ball should only be taxed when the ball is sold. “That maybe seems like a fairer treatment. You know, you only have income when you sell the ball.”

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Valuable baseballs held for more than a year would be taxed at the 28% long-term rate on collectibles. That means you’d pay at least $280,000 in federal taxes on a $1 million baseball. On the bright side, you’d still have $720,000 before state or other taxes apply — not a bad profit for a night at the ballpark.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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