The jock tax is an income tax levied by state and local governments throughout the country for road games played by athletes in those states. Typically, the tax is calculated using the "duty day" method. For example, if a season had 100 duty days (or days in which a player participates in team activities) and a player was in a particular state for one day, then one percent of his or her income would be taxable in that state. There are other less traditional jock tax methods, such as the "game day" method or flat rates by game, which have all been scrutinized since inception as poor tax policy, and in some cases illegal. A recent settlement between the NHL Players Association and the Tennessee Department of Revenue (Tennessee's jock tax levied a flat tax rate of $2,500 per game) is just the most recent of many cases against the controversial "jock tax". With the settlement, more than 850 NHL players will soon receive checks ranging between $1,250 and $11,250. A few months ago, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Cleveland's jock taxing system ("game day" method) was illegal. If the law suit trend continues, it could spell the end of the jock tax.
The jock tax has been around since the late 60s, but was only enforced in the early 90s. It is said that the jock tax originated after the state of California began to tax Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan after the Bulls beat the Lakers in five games in the NBA finals. Since that incident, more than a dozen states and some cities have passed their own "jock tax bills" that require traveling professionals to pay income taxes in every state where they earn income or have an "economic nexus". While it may seem like pocket change to pro athletes making millions of dollars to play a single game, the tax also applies to the trainers, equipment managers and other lower-earning staff positions that travel with the team. Some states have extended jock taxes to visiting musicians and lawyers as well.