Cleveland “Jock Tax” Argued before the Ohio Supreme Court

Posted on January 14th, 2015 by sutteroconnell

The city of Cleveland’s “Jock Tax” case was heard by the Ohio Supreme Court this morning. There were two cases at issue, one filed by ex NFL player Hunter Hillenmeyer and a second filed by former Indianapolis Colt Jeff Saturday. Both cases involved the city’s right to tax visiting professional athletes, but Saturday’s case also had the twist of Cleveland’s attempt to tax him for a game he did not attend due to injury.

The first concept under discussion focused upon the method of taxation. NFL Players are paid each week during the season instead of throughout the year. Cleveland argued that the entire weekly paycheck was subject to taxation because the game occurred in that week. Hillenmeyer pointed out that the players train and prepare in their home city and it was a violation of the equal protection clause to tax them for time outside the taxing jurisdiction. The city claimed that the players were hired to play games, not practice and that cities are granted wide discretion in determining their taxing methods. Under Hillenmeyer’s view he would be taxed for two days of his employment out of a total of 150. Under the cities claim he would be taxed for 1 game out of 20.

Saturday’s case presented the interesting issue of the city taxing a player who did not play in the game or even travel to Cleveland. The city took the position that Saturday’s missing of the game was no different than anyone else taking a sick day.  The city attorney claimed that since Saturday was paid that week, and his team played in Cleveland, he was subject to the tax. One justice asked if the groundskeeper in Indianapolis was also subject to the tax.

The outcome in this case will affect similar tax laws in Columbus and Cincinnati. The Court will vote on the outcome today and an opinion will be issued in three to six months.

For our original post on this matter click here.

For more coverage of the argument click here.