Former Colt Saturday seeks 'jock tax' refund from Cleveland

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Former Indianapolis Colt Jeff Saturday has filed suit against the city of Cleveland, fighting a so-called “jock tax” that he contends unfairly dinged him during his playing days.

The suit challenges Cleveland’s method of taxing pro athletes who play in the city for visiting teams. Many cities, states and other taxing jurisdictions take a cut of visiting players’ income, but Saturday claims that Cleveland’s method is unusual and unfair.

Saturday’s suit is pending before the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals. Former Chicago Bears player Hunter Hillenmeyer has filed a similar suit, which also is pending.

Saturday's case against Cleveland regarding a Colts game against the Cleveland Browns in 2008 makes two arguments, said Stephen Kidder, the NFL Players’ Association tax counsel who represents both players.

To begin with, Saturday was rehabbing an injury at that time and didn't even make the trip to Cleveland, Kidder said.

"Cleveland is attempting to tax Jeff Saturday despite the fact that he never stepped foot in the city limits," Kidder told IBJ on Wednesday. "That really is unprecendented in terms of the reach of a city or state. ... He was forced to pay taxes because his employer went to Cleveland."

In addition, Saturday is arguing against the way that Cleveland determines the taxes owed.

Typically, visiting athletes are taxed in relation to their number of “duty days”—the number of days per year that they work, doing such things as playing, practicing and training. If a pro football player spends two days in a given jurisdiction, and there are 200 duty days in a year, 2/200ths of his income would be taxed by the jurisdiction, Kidder said.

But under Cleveland’s system, the player’s income is divided by the number of games played during the year—a much smaller number that makes his taxable income much higher.

"Cleveland chooses to argue that athletes are only paid for playing in a game," Kidder said. "The impact of all this is that Cleveland is grabbing income for other days of service that are rendered elsewhere."

Cleveland city attorneys have argued that the way the city calculates players' income tax is fair, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"The 'games-played' method is certainly reasonable ... since players are paid to do one thing—play in games," city attorneys stated in a brief with the Board of Tax Appeals, according to the Plain Dealer.

Saturday is seeking a refund of $3,294, and Hillenmeyer wants $5,062. The long-term stakes for Cleveland are much higher, the Plain Dealer reported. City officials have estimated that Cleveland could lose $1 million a year if it had to switch to a “duty days” system.


  • Ridiculous
    It is ridiculous the paperwork this creates for players. For example the Pacers have played 4 road games this week and must file on these 4 separate games just in one week. That just benefits accountants and no one else. Tax them where the live and move on.
  • That's Outrageous
    I know football players make a lot of money, but that's outrageous. States and cities don't get to tax multi-millionaire executives on business trips, why should athletes be treated any differently?
  • More $$ for Indy?
    If the Board/Court rules in Saturday's favor, won't he then owe more money to Indiana & Marion County? I presume they don't get taxed in two different locations for the same share of earnings.
  • Cry me a river!
    It does sound like Saturday got hosed, if he really wasn't in town or playing for the game in question, but honestly, it's hard to feel too bad for him. The NFL is the most subsidized sports-league on earth. Most of their stadiums were paid for in-whole or in-part with tax money, most of the "profitable" teams in the league wouldn't be without these giveaways, and every independent (read: Not paid for by the NFL, one of its teams, or a city trying to sucker its citizens into paying to lure an NFL franchise to town) study on the subject says that the corporate welfare outweighs by a wide margin any new tax revenue generated by downtown businesses, and only in the absolute best-case-scenarios does the tax revenue and economic activity work out to a "break-even" proposition. None (that's a big-fat-zero) of the teams in the league receiving taxpayer subsidies (through free stadiums and/or sweetheart deals like the Colts' deal that gives them a cut of the convention center revenue, too) have brought more economic development and/or tax revenue into the community than they've cost. EVER.
  • Good!
    Sounds like he is well within his rights if he didn't even travel to Cleveland with the team! Why should he be taxed for a game that he didn't play in a city he didn't go to?
  • Cleveland Tax on NFL Players
    Sorry to hear that the city of Cleveland imposes such a tax on players, especially after all the money that is poured into the city from services purchased by attending fans. Jeff Saturday is a class act in any event, and based upon the information provided in this article, he is well within his rights to contest this tax. Perhaps he and some of the other NFL players should throw tea into Cleveland's Lake Erie. Oops, nah, Lake Erie has enough problems of its own.
    • Possible forshadowing?
      I appears that Jeff is starting to address a few things that effect players in the NFL and not just himself. Could this be a sign that he has his eye on the job of Pres of the players association. Certainly would not be the first move in this direction by him. Saturday seem to have a interest if not a knack at fixing wrongs or settling disputes. might just be another glimpse into his future with the NFL.

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