The mainstream media bullied professional golfer Phil Mickelson into apologizing for criticizing California’s high taxes and threatening to leave the state because of California’s high income tax rate.
But California’s high taxes have been forcing many athletes–including those far from the limelight and who have not made as much money as Mickelson–to leave the state for fiscal reasons.
Tiger Woods said he left California because of high taxes in 1996. According to the Wall Street Journal, Woods’ net savings over those 16 years come to about $100 million. Mickelson, meanwhile, earned nearly $60.7 million last year. After Proposition 30, Mickelson will owe California nearly $8 million in taxes.
In contrast, the Journal notes Woods made $56.4 million in 2012. By living in Florida, he gets to keep $7.5 million in taxes he would have paid had he lived in California.
One tax accountant told the publication he received “three calls from concerned athletes” the day California passed Proposition 30 last November. He also said several of his clients play for “teams in California but live elsewhere for tax reasons.” Proposition 30 raised taxes on all Californians making more than $250,000. Californians making more than $1 million will have to pay a 13.3% tax rate.
Torii Hunter, who used to play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, said he moved from California to Texas “because it doesn’t have state income tax.”
Venus and Serena Williams learned to play tennis in Compton, California. They now live in Florida. Female golfer Michelle Wie and her parents briefly lived in Palo Alto, California while she was attending Stanford. When she graduated, she moved to Florida.
But the higher taxes also hurt players who are not in the limelight.
Consider American Sam Querry. The 25-year-old tennis player, who is the second-highest-ranked American male tennis player in the world, does not have Mickelson’s riches. But he moved from Thousand Oaks, CA to Las Vegas, Nevada, following his parents who left California because of its high income taxes. Pro golfer Nick Watney, according to the Journal, also left California to Nevada.
As the Journal notes, “for journeymen and up-and-comers, California’s tax rates can be a major handicap.”
“A few hundred thousand or even a million in prize money isn’t such a fortune when an athlete has to pay for travel, coaches, accountants, agents and miscellaneous training-related expenses,” the paper wrote. “Uncle Sam also skims his ‘fair share’ off the top–and that share is rising.”