Tax on Barry Bonds’ Ball

Today we hear from Christine in PA who throws us this curve ball. She says, “I just saw on the news that the gentleman that caught Barry Bonds 756th home run ball is selling it because he can’t afford the tax bill for just possessing it. I’m not aware of the tax that would be assessed while he owns it.
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I can see the tax when he does sell it will be huge…can he even take into consideration the price of the ticket toward the basis in the ball?

How about a hot dog and beer?”

Hi Christine,

That’s a great question. Thanks!

And I’ve been reading some discussion on this topic. Should Matt Murphy, the 21-year-old who survived the scuffle for the ball, have to pay taxes on the ball just for having caught it?

I’d be curious to see the responses from our Tax Pro readers.
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From what the various experts are saying, the answer could be yes – or no.

The right tax professional could easily win a case for the ball not being taxed until it’s sold. I could win that case. After all, there’s no objective value on that ball until it’s sold. So how do you determine on what amount to pay taxes?

A reader of Paul J. Caron’s Tax Prof Blog says

“If I recall correctly, in a similar situation a few years ago regarding Mark McGwire and the record for the most home runs in a season, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue announced that the IRS would not tax the fan on the ball unless he sold it. He could also return the ball to McGwire free of the gift tax.”
I seem to remember something about that, too.

As to the basis?

Certainly the ticket would count.

Perhaps even the investment in parking. But the hot dogs and beer?

I don’t know….now if you had said “peanuts and cracker jack” – that might qualify, since it’s part of the tradition, enshrined in song.

Meanwhile, you can bid on the ball here –


Thanks. Let’s see what reactions we get. OK?

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about Home Runs and all kinds of other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At

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