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How State Tax Impacts Salary

The NBA draft went down last night, and some of these kid’s lives are forever changed. The amount of money they will make on their first contract is more than most Americans will make in their lifetime. While I am a huge sports fan and enjoy the draft for what it is, I also like to look at the tax implications involved. When you dissect everything, it is eye opening to see how State tax rates can have a larger effect on the amount of money that they make than the slot that they are drafted.

Let’s take a deeper look into the draft so I can show you what I am talking about. I am a Marquette basketball fan, so we will begin with analyzing the local kid, Henry Ellenson.


Henry was picked with the 18th overall pick by the Detroit Pistons. Michigan has a top state tax rate of 4.25%. A native of Rice Lake, WI, Henry escapes the WI top tax rate of 7.65 to the friendlier Michigan rate. However, let us take a look at the financial impact of Henry being drafted at #18 instead of one pick earlier at #17.



Above are the projected guaranteed 2 year contracts that each slot in the draft will receive. The difference between being selected #17 and #18 is only $183,240…which isn’t monumental when you are talking about millions of dollars. However, Memphis is in the state of Tennessee, which is NO STATE TAX. Taking the 4.25% Michigan state tax off of Henry’s contract with the Pistons results in a total tax of $148,109. So that difference of $183,240 suddenly becomes a difference in salary of $331,349.

Now, let’s take a look at how getting drafted  5 picks later actually benefited one of the draftees from a financial standpoint. We will focus on the 25th pick by the LA Clippers and the 29th pick of the San Antonio Spurs. The Clippers took Brice Johnson from the University of North Carolina and he is projected to make $2,605,080 in guaranteed salary. The Spurs took Dejounte Murray from the University of Washington with the 29th pick and he is projected to make $2,413,320 in guaranteed salary.


The simple math here tells us the Johnson will make $191,760 more than Murray. However, San Antonio is in Texas which also has NO STATE TAX. Whereas, Brice Johnson will become a California resident which has the highest state tax in America with a top rate of 13.3%. This state tax will result in a cut off Johnson’s salary of $346,475, thus, Dejounte Murray will actually make $154,715 more than Johnson as he resides in the state of Texas.

It is important to remember that all athletes are subject to the “jock tax”. This means that they are taxed by each state for the number of days that they are working (playing) in each individual state. Therefore, none of the athletes are completely free from paying state taxes. However, the majority of their income is taxed in their state of residency.

All in all, the major hype around drafts is usually about how high an individual is drafted, but there is more to the financial story when you dig deeper into the numbers. All of these athletes have reached their childhood goal and are now in position to be financially secure for life if they manage their money in the proper way. Unfortunately, a large percentage of athletes eventually go broke due to mismanagement or bad advice with their finances. I just find it fascinating how the state tax rates can have a large effect on total take home pay for each individual.

If you are a sports fan or not, I hope that you enjoyed digging into the impact of state tax. There is a reason that many retirees move to Florida, and it is not just because of the great weather!

*All figures are based on NBA slotted projections. Calculations do not take into account federal taxes and other income and deductions that these individuals may have.

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Nicholas Hammernik, EA

Nick is Talking Tax To Milwaukee. Combing the boring topic of tax with the latest news in pop culture and sports.

Nick is Talking Tax To Milwaukee. Combing the boring topic of tax with the latest news in pop culture and sports.


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