In what world would Jimmy Garoppolo earn more from Super Bowl LII than Tom Brady? Try this world.
Because of a strange intersection between the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and state tax laws, the former New England Patriots quarterback is set to take home more (after income taxes) from the Super Bowl than Brady—even though Garoppolo isn’t even on the Patriots, let alone leading them.
The explanation is fairly simple. Article 37 of the CBA details postseason pay for players. Unlike in the regular season when players earn different rates based on their contracts, postseason pay is egalitarian. The star quarterback gets paid the same as a backup player and an injured player. Brady, for instance, earned $51,000 for playing in all 64 offensive snaps in the AFC championship on Sunday. Defensive back Johnson Bademosi, who played in only one of 74 defensive snaps on Sunday, also earned $51,000.
Article 37 also instructs which players are “qualified” to receive pay. For wild card and divisional playoff games, qualified players are limited to those on the active list, inactive list or the injured reserve list. But for the conference championships and the Super Bowl, the list of qualified players expands to include former players who were on the active or inactive lists for at least eight games that season (or post-season) and are not currently on the roster for another team in the same conference.
Enter Garoppolo, who was on the Patriots roster for eight games before being traded out of conference to the San Francisco 49ers. The CBA entitles Garoppolo to the same pay as Brady and Bademosi for the AFC championship game ($51,000) and the Super Bowl ($112,000 if the Patriots win; $56,000 if the Patriots lose).
Garoppolo, however, should take home more pay than Brady after income taxes. Garoppolo, unlike Brady, will not be travelling to Minnesota and will not be subject to Minnesota’s state income tax of 9.85%. Among states that have an NFL team, Minnesota has the second-highest income tax in the country after California (13.3%). Garoppolo, obviously, is no longer traveling with the Patriots; if he attends the Super Bowl it will only be as a fan and not for work.
Minnesota law dictates that in the case of an individual who is a nonresident salaried employee of a pro sports team, his income subject to tax in Minnesota shall be determined by taking his total compensation from the team in a year and multiplying that by a fraction in which the numerator is the total of “duty days” in Minnesota and the denominator is the total number of “duty days” worked in that year. In other words, each day Brady spends in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl will increase their tax bill to Minnesota. That is not true for Garoppolo.
Indeed, Garoppolo will have no “duty days” in Minnesota related to the Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean he’ll avoid having to pay state taxes for his share of the Patriots winning or losing the Super Bowl. The tax, however, would be based on his state of residency. Although Garoppolo spent the last two months of the season with the 49ers, he’s presumably not a resident of California. California law requires a person to have a continuous, physical presence in the state before he or she would be eligible to become a resident. The law is clear that a person present in California only for a “temporary or transitory purpose” is not a resident. Even if Garoppolo later becomes a California resident, the income from Super Bowl 52 will not be taxable in California since he will have earned the income during a period while he was a non-resident of California. More likely Garoppolo is a resident of Illinois, where he was born and raised and played both high school and college football, or Massachusetts, where Garoppolo played for the Patriots from 2014 to ’17. Both Illinois (4.95%) and Massachusetts (5.1%) have a lower state tax rate than Minnesota.
The new federal tax law likely increases the impact of taxes on what Garoppolo and Brady take home as pay from the Super Bowl. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law last month, limits the ability of taxpayers who itemize their deductions to deduct the dollars they spend paying state and local taxes from their federal income taxes. High earners tend to itemize rather than take the standard deduction. It is very likely that both Brady and Garoppolo itemize. Assuming Brady itemizes, he will not be able to deduct from his federal income taxes the amount for which Minnesota taxes him for the Super Bowl.
Brady, of course, likely doesn’t care all that much about these tax implications. His focus is undoubtedly on defeating the Philadelphia Eagles. In addition, a few thousands dollars here and there probably seems like a rounding error to him: The combined net worth of Brady and his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen has been estimated to be in excess of $500 million.
But it is a peculiar outcome that Brady will lay it all on the line in the Super Bowl and yet his former backup, who isn’t even on the team, will end up with making more money from the game.
Michael McCann is SI's legal analyst. He is also the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Robert Raiola is the Director of the Sports & Entertainment Group of the CPA and Advisory Firm PKF O’Connor Davies.
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