- Owners take the same kinds of deductions that industrialists take on factory equipment. This tactic allows them to pay lower tax rates than the stadium workers and players.
- Steve Ballmer, owner of the Clippers paid a tax rate of 12% while LeBron James paid 35.9%, nearly triple that amount.
- If Ballmer profits from the Clippers, he can — legally — inform the IRS that he is losing money, thus saving big bucks on his taxes.
“At a concession stand at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Adelaide Avila was pingponging between pouring beers, wiping down counters and taking out the trash. Her Los Angeles Lakers were playing their hometown rival, the Clippers, but Avila was working too hard to follow the March 2019 game.
When she filed taxes for her previous year’s labors at the arena and her second job driving for Uber, the 50-year-old Avila reported making $44,810. The federal government took a 14.1% cut.
On the court that night, the players were also hard at work. None more so than LeBron James. The Lakers star was suffering through a painful strained groin injury, but he still put up more points and played more minutes than any other player.
In his tax return, James reported making $124 million in 2018. He paid a federal income tax rate of 35.9%. Not surprisingly, it was more than double the rate paid by Avila.
The wealthiest person in the building that night, in all likelihood, was Steve Ballmer, owner of the Clippers. The evening was decidedly less arduous for the billionaire former CEO of Microsoft. He sat courtside, in a pink dress shirt and slacks, surrounded by friends. His legs were outstretched, his shoes almost touching the sideline.
Ballmer had reason to smile: His Clippers won. But even if they hadn’t, his ownership of the team was reaping him massive tax benefits.
For the prior year, Ballmer reported making $656 million. The dollar figure he paid in taxes was large, $78 million; but as a percentage of what he made, it was tiny. Records reviewed by ProPublica show his federal income tax rate was just 12%.
That’s a third of the rate James paid, even though Ballmer made five times as much as the superstar player. Ballmer’s rate was also lower than Avila’s — even though Ballmer’s income was almost 15,000 times greater than the concession worker’s…”
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