Special Report

The Best Paid Athletes and What They Owed in Taxes

Top athletes make top dollars, but they also pay top taxes. Because of differing tax rates from state to state, some athletes pay a much larger percentage of their earnings than others, and those who make the most money before taxes don’t always end up with more.

To determine gross income, tax liabilities, and after-tax income for 30 of America’s most prominent – and best-paid – athletes, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data collected by the sports news and betting site Bookies.com. The site considered state-specific tax laws and made its own calculations of the estimated amount each athlete paid in tax as well as net pay after tax, based on 2021 on- and off-field (or -court) earnings. The so-called Jock Tax – levied by some cities and states against visiting athletes who earn money within their jurisdiction – was not included in the computations.

Athletes who live or play for teams in high-tax states, not surprisingly, are paying a higher proportion of their salary in taxes than other athletes. Nine athletes on our list lost more than 50% of their earnings to the taxman. 

California and New York, where many of these athletes live and play, are both notoriously high-tax states. The athletes in California include football players Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, and Aaron Donald; basketball stars Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James; and golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Athletes playing for New York teams include Leonard Williams, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant. (These are the states collecting the most income tax per person.) 

No one on this list paid more taxes than LeBron James, whose tax bill amounted to an estimated $50,980,000. Don’t expect a crowdfunding site to be created for the Los Angeles Lakers forward, however; James still took home $45,520,000 after taxes. (See where he stands among the 100 most highly paid athletes in America.)

Click here to see the best paid athletes and what they owed in taxes

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott topped the list in two categories: 2021 earnings with $107,500,000 and after-tax earnings of $65,230,000. Tennis legend Serena Williams is the lone woman on the list, with after-tax earnings of  $25,200,000.

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