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Judge Declares Pittsburgh’s ‘Jock Tax’ Unconstitutional

  • A judge ruled that a 3% fee charged by Pittsburgh on wages earned by visiting athletes is unconstitutional.
  • The fee was challenged in court by three athletes.
Pittsburgh-Steelers
Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

Pittsburgh appears to be losing a certain home-field advantage.

An Allegheny County judge ruled that a 3% tax charged by the city on wages earned by visiting athletes was unconstitutional under Pennsylvania law.

  • Judge Christine Ward determined that the tax creates a “discriminatory burden on out-of-state residents” and violates the state constitution’s uniformity clause. Ward also found it leads to discriminatory tax rates among people in the same profession.
  • The tax was challenged in court by New York Islanders right-winger Kyle Palmieri, former Pittsburgh Penguins and current Kontinental Hockey League player Scott Wilson, and retired MLB player Jeff Francoeur
  • The three have collectively paid more than $25,000 to the city due to the “jock tax,” per court documents.

The city argued unsuccessfully that the fee was imposed so visiting players would help to fund the stadiums that they play in, and that the athletes were entitled to a credit on local income taxes in the amount that they pay toward the fee.

Cost of Admission

The tax presents a significant cost to certain athletes. The average MLB player makes $27,248.05 per game, meaning each game in Pittsburgh would cost $817.44 in taxes. 

New York Mets ace Max Scherzer, the highest-paid MLB player this season, was taxed $8,024.69 for each game in Steel City.