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NBA beats NHL in this year's jock tax championship

The Los Angeles Kings fans have their brooms out, hoping to see their team sweep the New York Rangers tonight and skate the Stanley Cup.

NHL Stanley Cup Finals Kings v Rangers via NHL

The Kings players and coaches obviously will be happy if they can wrap up the National Hockey League championship tonight.

Their fans will be ecstatic. It's always a thrill to see your team take a title, even on the visiting team's ice.

But the California and New York tax collectors will be disappointed to see the NHL playoffs end. Both those states collect personal income taxes and they've been raking in extra cash thanks to jock taxes assessed the visiting hockey players.

Meanwhile, on the hardwood there's better tax news for members of the National Basketball Association teams fighting for basketball's professional championship.

Neither Texas, home of the San Antonio Spurs, nor Florida, where the Miami-based Heat play their home games, has a personal income tax.

NBA Championship Series Spurs v Heat via NBA

Tax savings for highly-paid players: The no-state-tax playoffs series is very good news for three of the Heat players who made Forbes magazine's latest ranking of the world's 100 highest paid athletes.

LeBron James is third thanks to $19.3 million in NBA game-related money and endorsements worth $53 million. Teammate Dwyane Wade is 23rd with $29.9 million overall. Chris Bosh's $21.8 million put him 57th on the list.

No Spurs players made the ultra-rich list. The team's highest paid players are stars Tony Parker with $12.5 million in basketball income this season and Tim Duncan with $10.4 million from the team.

Regular season tax bills remain: While the NBA players are getting a state tax pass in this year's championship series, they still had to pay plenty during the regular season.

Bloomberg Businessweek recently looked at jock taxes -- those levies assessed by 21 states and eight cities on visiting players, coaches, trainers, and others who accompany the team -- and found that California collected $163.8 million in 2011 from resident and nonresident professional athletes for Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL, National Football League, Women's NBA, golf, tennis, and soccer.

About $151 million of that came from the top four sports, according to the California Franchise Tax Board.

Illegal jock tax? Sometimes, though, the tax collector goes too far. That's the assessment of two former NFL players who are suing Cleveland, home of the woebegone Browns, Cavaliers and Indians, for what they contend were illegally collected jock taxes.

The overreaching, argue former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and former Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, came because the Ohio city taxes all athletes on a visiting team for every game, even players who are hurt or don't attend the game.

The sums of Cleveland jock taxes that the two former NFL players wants refunded are relatively minuscule, $5,062 for Hillenmeyer and $3,294 for Saturday.

But it's not the money that matters, they told Bloomberg Businessweek, it's the principle. No one, regardless of his or her line of work, should have to pay Cleveland's tax when they haven't provided any taxable services in the city.

Obviously Cleveland officials disagree. In court filings, city officials argue that the games-played formula it uses is fair, precise and legal because athletes are paid to perform in all games.

The case is pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. I'm rooting for the football players.

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