Individual Income Tax Insights: Cleveland Rocks the Jock Tax Like No One Else – Appeals Ruling of Unconstitutionality to U.S. Supreme Court


Cleveland, Ohio may be famous in the realm of Rock and Roll, but it is the state’s unique implementation of the jock tax with regard to NFL athletes that is making recent headlines. As reported by Bloomberg BNA’s Bebe Raupe, Cleveland filed its certiorari petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 6, following the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling on April 30 that Cleveland’s “games-played” method of administering the jock tax violates the due process rights of nonresident visiting professional athletes, namely appellant Hunter Hillenmeyer, a former Chicago Bears linebacker.

Ultimately, this ruling came down to the finding that the “games-played” method of allocating a visiting professional athlete’s income to the city of Cleveland actually resulted in the taxation of income from work occurring outside of the city.

Similarly, another decision released April 30 involving Jeffrey Saturday, a retired center for the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers, further negated Cleveland’s taxing authority. The Ohio Supreme Court held that a nonresident professional athlete who neither attended nor played in a game held in Cleveland is not liable for municipal income tax. The “duty-days” method was deemed a more reasonable allocation of tax by the Ohio high court, holding that it ensures that tax collected is proportionate to income received for services rendered in Cleveland, whereas the “games-played” method allows for a higher percentage of income to be taxed by reaching income accrued outside of Cleveland, thus creating unconstitutional extraterritorial taxation.  

Although Cleveland maintains its position that taxation is a matter of local jurisdiction and implementing its “games-played” method of taxation of nonresident professional athletes is within its taxing authority, it could find itself in the “Dawg Pound” if the U.S. Supreme Court thinks otherwise.

For more information regarding Ohio’s jock tax, see Weekly State Tax Report articles by Erin McManus and Bebe Raupe.

Continue the conversation on Bloomberg BNA’s State Tax Group’s LinkedIn page: How should the U.S. Supreme Court rule on Cleveland’s authority to implement the games-played method of taxation if writ of certiorari is granted, and how might the Court’s ruling affect other jurisdictions’ taxation of professional athletes?

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