The NFL will conclude the 2016 season on Sunday, in what is sure to be a “super” match-up of the league’s elite.
Fascination follows these athletes for their feats of strength, athleticism and coordination, but what’s often just as interesting to the less physically gifted among us are the zeros at the end of their paycheck. The league minimum, collectively bargained by the NFL Player’s Union and the various ownership groups, is set at $450,000 for the 2016 season that concludes on Sunday.
This figure puts even the backup long snapper squarely in the sights of the IRS, who will no doubt be licking their chops in anticipation of collecting the maximum 36.9% owed by those in the top tax bracket. But before you feel bad for these guys, consider that they have the same options available to mitigate their tax liabilities as you and I. It’s just a little more awesome when they do it.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential deductions available to an NFL player, which should sound familiar to you in most cases, even if their vertical leap statistics do not.
Job Search and Moving Expense:
There are no doubt a number of players on the final year of their contract. Following the big game on Sunday they’ll celebrate a victory, or mourn a defeat, until the reality of the NFL business sets in: time to find a new job. Maybe one of New England’s lineman is coveted by the Cincinatti Bengals, or Atlanta’s backup quarterback has an opportunity to interview for the starting gig with the Texans. In either scenario, they’ll need to get themselves to an interview, probably stay in a hotel, eat a good meal, and rent the obligatory Maserati to make their way around town in style. All of these activities hold potential for write offs as expenses related to a job search.
Now, let’s say Matt Ryan’s backup lands the job. He’s been living in Atlanta until now, and obviously, there will be some costs associated with moving himself, and perhaps his family to Houston where his new employer is based. Trucks, labor, and a number of other moving expenses related to his professional relocation are potential write offs against his taxes.
Uniform and Performance Gear
Any gear related to a player’s performance, and not provided by the team, could turn into a write off. Don’t like the brand of facemask or shoulder pads provided by the team? Have a particular affinity for one brand of cleats over another? Swear by a certain type of compression shorts? That’s right, anything from shoulder pads to underpants could save an NFL player a few bucks come tax time.
Medical and Body Upkeep
For most of us, our body is like an 89 Camry – if we can rack up 150,000 miles and keep the floor mats clean, we’ll call it a win. For the NFL player, on the other hand, it’s of utmost importance that their body be kept in tip top shape at all times. One ill-timed injury, or subpar performance, could spell the difference between getting that next contract or easing into an early retirement. All kinds of care go into making sure that a player’s temple is firing on all cylinders – massages, hyperbaric chambers, acupuncture, some crazy thing called “cupping,” and who knows what else. And the best part? You guessed it. All of the above present potential tax-saving deductions.
Meals and Entertainment
If you’ve ever indulged in HBO’s Hard Knocks, you’ve noticed that in the first episode or two some poor rookie is goaded into taking his entire team, or at least position group, out to dinner after practice. Human nature is to feel bad for the young man, but in some backwards manner you appreciate that he’s paying his dues while earning the respect of his teammates. That is, until you learn that such a dinner may be considered a normal business expense, and could therefore be deducted according to the 50% standard meals and entertainment limit.
But wait! Doesn’t Jon Gruden sing Tom Brady’s praises every Monday night for taking his offensive line out to dinner each week? He does, and yes, this also holds potential for a deduction on Timeless Tom’s taxes. Mr. Brady, your “generosity” fools me no more!
The moral of the story is that NFL players have the same deductions available that the non-freak-athletes among us enjoy, but like all things NFL, when they take deductions it’s a bit more spectacular.