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As March Madness heats up this week, so do legal issues surrounding everything from office pools to antitrust suits. Depending on where you live, thanks to the federal system, the brackets people filled out and the ten dollars each participant contributed to office March Madness pools could mean the participants are committing anything from a misdemeanor to a felony or, in some states, possibly just violating company policy.
For those individuals who win their office pools, remember that the IRS requires people to report gambling winnings as “other income” on their 2014 tax returns. Individuals who show actual gambling winnings are allowed to offset those gambling winnings with gambling losses. Unfortunately, for those individuals who do not win their office pool, the losses cannot be used to set off the salary they earned while participating in the pool (or any other ordinary income).
Finally, unlike the individuals winning their office pools, the college basketball players are not compensated directly for the use of their images in broadcasting. Division I athletes sign a release that allows the NCAA to use their names and images indefinitely. Antitrust litigation has been pending in the Northern District of California since 2009, with current players seeking injunctive relief and former players seeking monetary damages for the use of their images in violation of their publicity rights. Recently, the players moved for class certification, and the court decided to hear the motion on June 20. The NCAA is opposing the class certification because the NCAA claims there are too many differences between individual plaintiffs. However, this determination could represent a critical juncture in the case, and if the court grants the motion, there will be increasing pressure on the NCAA to settle.
Do you think college athletes should be compensated for the use of their images on TV or in video games? Do you plan to report your bracket winnings on your next tax return? Should the IRS care?
—Samara C. Pals Cramer
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