Buffalo snowstorm triggers jock tax for Bills, Jets players

(AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Harry Scull Jr.)
(AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Harry Scull Jr.)

A devastating snowstorm in the Buffalo area gave the Bills no other choice than to relocate Sunday’s home game against the Jets. Moving the game to Ford Field in Detroit is an added strain on the franchise, while its city and fanbase remains immobilized due to the snow. But the unexpected circumstances triggers an unlikely tax situation for the players, and a jock tax bonus for the state of Michigan.

Moving the game from New York to Michigan impacts where players’ state taxes are paid. Players are trading a duty day in New York, where their earnings are taxed at 8.82 percent, to work in Michigan where they’re taxed at 4.25 percent. Detroit happens to be one of seven NFL cities that additionally taxes visiting athletes, at a rate of 1.25 percent.

Estimating 150 duty days for these two teams — keeping in mind neither will likely be reporting for work during the postseason — each duty day equals .63 percent of a player’s individual salary. The jock tax is then levied depending on where the duty day occurs, meaning when players hit the road eight times per season, they’re taxed at the opposing state and/or city’s tax rate. As a result of Monday night’s relocation, Mario Williams, Bills defensive end and the team’s highest-paid player, will shell out close to $4,000 to Detroit and Michigan come tax time. Jets offensive lineman D’Brickshaw Ferguson, his team’s biggest earner, will provide both with $2,500 in jock taxes.

All in all, the state of Michigan and city of Detroit will receive upwards of $100,000 combined in jock tax revenue from the players in Monday night’s game.

(Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Beyond the city and players, there are obvious financial ramifications for the Bills, which have now lost one of their eight money-making home games.

The franchise has announced it will refund tickets to the games. The Jets will be impacted too, as ticket revenue for each game is split 60-40 between the teams, with the visiting team getting 40 percent of the gate. The lack of other game-day revenue streams for the Bills — parking, concessions, merchandise — will cost the franchise millions.

Even if the NFL and the Lions offer the Bills a favorable revenue arrangement, one wouldn’t expect more than a few thousand people to show up at an impromptu game against the 2-8 Jets in Detroit.

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