It's Time to Tax College Sports


Via the Economist's Free Exchange Blog, Kathryn Jean Lopez seems surprised that the Senate Finance committee is considering taxing college sports -- or, more specifically, considering changing the tax status of some college sports programs.

But look, this makes perfect sense. Colleges and Universities get tax exempt status because they are thought to be providing a valuable educational service. And they probably are. But many of those universities are operating athletic programs that are giant, commercial cash cows. The Congressional Budget Office (pdf) says that between 60 and 80 percent of Division IA athletic department activity can be described as commercial. And while pulling in dollars hand over fist might have some educational value, I doubt it's what Congress had in mind.

football flickr user rdesai.png

Actually, colleges and universities have it twice as nice. Not only do they get tax exempt status, but charitable donations to the schools are tax deductible. In other words, schools can not only operate tax-exempt business enterprises; but the government will subsidize them to do it.

I've said all this before, but the easy solution here is to change the deduction rules governing charitable donations. Those rules are regressive. But, just as importantly, they don't benefit the common good in a narrow, serious way. As it stands you can claim the same charitable deduction for giving $10,000 to an orphanage as you can for giving $10,000 to your alma mater's athletic program in exchange for season tickets. Does anyone think that makes sense?

Image from Flickr user rdesai

Jump to comments
Presented by

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. More

Conor Clarke is the editor, with Michael Kinsley, of Creative Capitalism, an economics blog that was recently published in book form by Simon and Schuster. He was previously a fellow at The Atlantic and an editor at The Guardian. He is also on Twitter.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.


How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe


A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.


I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."


Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion



More in Politics

Just In