Excited for the Super Bowl? Me too. Despite the excessive commercialism and overpaid athletes, I really do enjoy watching the game. But something I recently learned about football’s parent entity, the National Football League, makes me so disgusted I almost want to give up on the game altogether.
Ready for it? The NFL is considered a non-profit organization by the federal government, and as such, it PAYS ZERO TAXES. Well, to be fair, the tax breaks apply only to the league office, while the NFL’s 32 teams pay taxes on their revenues. But still.
And how did one of the most lucrative enterprises in the world come to enjoy this privileged status? Well, like any good corporate entity, it changed the law. In 1966, “the tax code was amended to give a professional football league tax-exempt status in order to facilitate the merger of the NFL and the old American Football League,” reports Nonprofit Quarterly. Under the amended law, the NFL could classify itself as a 501(c)(6) “tax-exempt industry association” and not a charity, which would be a 501(c)(3).
Shocked? Jaw on the floor? Yeah, you’re not the only one.
Bloomberg reported on a recent survey conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University, in which a majority of participants “had no idea the National Football League has nonprofit status.” When they were informed people overwhelmingly opposed the tax breaks enjoyed by the league.
And why do we have no idea? Well probably because the NFL reported revenues of over $9 billion last year. And commissioner Roger Goodell (who pulls a $30 million salary) has been quite vocal about his plans to take the NFL over $25 billion in the next 3 years. A goal that’s quite attainable when your entire organization is tax free. We’ve also been intentionally kept in the dark.
“Most interesting, however, is how effective the NFL’s public-relations machine has been at keeping its nonprofit status out of the public eye,” reports Bloomberg. “Only 13 percent of those polled correctly identified the NFL as a nonprofit. It seems most people have a hard time reconciling tax breaks for a league flush with cash at a time when government budget cuts are threatening classrooms and even the IRS itself.”
Because the average fan might have a hard time screaming themselves hoarse during the Big Game if they knew they were being fleeced. So the NFL took their tax-exempt status into the huddle, and the American people were none the wiser.
Until now. Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has introduced legislation to end the NFL’s tax break. Called the Properly Reducing Overexemptions for Sports Act (PRO Sports Act), the bill would do away with the tax break currently enjoyed by the league offices of the National Football League, the National Hockey League, golf’s PGA Tour, and the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
The Joint Committee on Taxation reported that taxpayers could gain around $109 million over 10 years if the IRS would agree to pull the nonprofit status of the NFL and NHL.
“Tax exemptions like this one are corporate welfare and government cronyism,” said Steve Stanek, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and the managing editor of the organization’s “Budget and Tax News” publication, told Newsmax. “Good tax policy would end them.”
Unfortunately, as the plethora of loopholes for corporations and the ultra wealthy show, good tax policy isn’t America’s forte.
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