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Fan who caught Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit may have to pay hefty tax bill

NEW YORK— The fan who gave Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit ball back to the Yankees captain and received a treasure trove of gifts in return was bracing Tuesday for another present: a five-figure tax bill.

Christian Lopez, the fan who caught and returned Jeter’s home run ball at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, could be facing a tax bill for all that he received in return for his good deed, potentially to the tune of about $14,000.

The Yankees gave the 23-year-old Lopez four luxury suite tickets for each of the team’s remaining home games, including the postseason, as well as three bats, three balls and two jerseys all signed by Jeter. He also received front-row seats for Sunday’s game, which reportedly sell for up to $1,358.90 each.

If the goods are classified as prizes, rather than gifts, Lopez — who has said he owes more than $100,000 in student loans — could be in line for a heavy bill from the IRS.

A modest valuation of $50,000 for all of the items would likely mean a roughly $14,000 tax liability, the newspaper reported.

“There’s different ways the IRS could try to characterize a ball caught by a fan in the stands,” Andrew D. Appleby, a tax associate who has written about the taxing of souvenir baseballs, told the newspaper. “But when the Yankees give him all those things, it’s much more clear-cut that he owes taxes on what they give him.”

Other experts disagree.

“The legal question of whether it is a gift or prize is whether the transferor is giving the property out of detached and disinterested generosity,” Michael J. Graetz, a law professor at Columbia University, told the newspaper.

“It’s hard for me, not being a Yankee fan, to think of the Yankees as being in the business of exercising generosity to others, but there’s a reasonable case to be made that these were given out of generosity,” he added.

Lopez said he plans to ask his parents for a loan if he is hit with the tax bill.