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GolfSports & Politics

Phil Mickelson Might Retire Because The Taxes On His $47.8 Million Income Are Too High


Phil Mickelson is a wealthy, wealthy man. Why he would mess up the living he makes in any way is beyond comprehension, but he’s planning what he calls “drastic changes” to his career. Well, when you make as much as Phil does, in the place he makes it, maybe your tax bracket would have you thinking the same thing.

Mickelson, who is just 42, said the changing political landscape is causing him to seriously contemplate his future in golf. Forbes ranked Mickelson as the seventh-highest paid athlete in the world last year, but thanks to his otherworldly income (and the taxes in his home near San Diego), he forks a ton of it over to the government? Like, a lot of it.

“I’m not going to jump the gun and do it right away, but there are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state. And, you know, it doesn’t work for me right now. So I’m going to have to make some changes.”

“If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and state, my tax rate is 62, 63 percent,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what to do.”

Before we examine the spoils that go to this victor, let’s look at it from his perspective. Sixty-three percent of 47.8 million is 30.114 million, which means he only took home a paltry $17.868 million in 2012. Now, that is a substantial drop, but it’s still marginally higher than the median $50,054 the average American household took home last year — before taxes.

It’s easy to rag on multi-million dollar athletes for complaining about the unfair taxes they have to pay, but here’s what’s also unfair: making absurd amounts of money for being able to swing a club way better than most people on the planet. Yes, it’s just the system in place that allows you to rake in the riches you do, but oh Phil, you make it too easy. Stop threatening to retire from a sport that earns you almost $50 million a year be happy with the $17 million you do take home. Or move to Florida. But then again, this commercial might not make sense anymore:

And stop it, you’re not a pencil-pusher. You have someone keep score and do your taxes for you. Just stop it.

[NY Times, Getty Images]



  • Anonymous

    wow Phil just wow…..you play GOLF for a living..

  • Anonymous

    And there’s no way he pays 63%.

  • appfan

    It’s still HIS money…giving it to the most inefficient group, the government, is a serious waste. It’s a ridiculous percentage, and it’s stupid to say he can afford it. He’s achieved the wealth that the vast majority of us only dream about. Furthermore, he donates alot, which definitely does alot more good than the government.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shane-Walker/1605854384 Shane Walker

    Cry me a fucking river. Move out of the damn state if you must but to retire because you pay too much in taxes is ridiculous. Half of 60 million is still a lot of damn money.

  • Bob

    Don’t blame him. How much are YOU willing to have taken from you to give to the lazy good for nothings the goverment supports. We are Greece. We are western Europe. The people who think like this author re-elected the architect of this nations demise. Now sit back and enjoy the consequences.

  • Chuck

    The guy that wrote this article is a moron. Anybody who’s getting taxed at 63 percent is getting hosed, rich or poor.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like you’re saying Phil should be glad he gets to keep any of his ill-gotten gain. It’s his money. I don’t care how much he makes, it’s his money. He shouldn’t have to fork over 2/3 to the government. Such confiscatory taxation is theft.

  • Anonymous

    Sure he does.

  • Anonymous

    And, by god, why should he get more than you, right? What right do you have to say he should give up 2/3 of what is his?

  • Anonymous

    You people seem to have missed the point of that little revolution we had. It makes no difference what his profession is (as long as it’s legal) or how much (how much more than you – sour grapes?) he makes. It’s his money (his property). Neither you nor I, individually or under the mob rule we call democracy, have the right to take 2/3 of his money just because we (you) think he has too much. This has nothing to do with golf.

  • former philfan

    there are many americans that make $25000 per year and are willing to give

    EVERYTHING for their country! Perhaps if Phil served he would understand

    that “freedom is not free”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-P-Baldwin/636675708 David P. Baldwin

    What a wimp! I just heard he is back-tracking on his comment because some people did not like it. Seems he does not care enough about his State or the Country to make a stand one way or the other. put it another way. He is a coward.

  • BlueThunder613

    Why is it when someone makes a lot of money through hard work and personal success that we all want to strangle the earner with mega taxes and guilting them to share more of their wealth?
    I’m not so concerned about the miserly (very few of the well-known wealthy are miserly), but I do not think we should target the wealthy and expect handouts to everyone who asks.
    Phil Mickelson, like many successful athletes, has earned his wealth fair and square. He is entitled to make financial decisions without public coercion. I wish I had a small percentage of his athletic ability, but I am happy with my lot. You should work to achieve a sense of satisfaction, not take it away from those who have it.

  • Anonymous

    Woah I knew the comments on here were going to get dicey.. haha. Nice article anyway, Jordan.

    Thing is, what would Phil do instead of golf? Does he want to make less money to get into a lesser tax bracket? You’d have less money.. seems stupid. Jordan’s point is that he has a great, rewarding job. So deal with the taxes. You’re richer than most everyone. I don’t see how Phil’s problems are different from everyone problems? With a $50k salary vs a $48mil salary he may be taxed at 2x the rate but yet he’s still making like what…. 100x the net dollars? Isn’t there a point when you are so rich that you feel like you have everything? I think I’d be more interested to hear what Phil wants to buy with the money he is paying in taxes.

  • Anonymous

    Um because Shane probably pays taxes, which are law, as well. Do you not pay any taxes? I’m pretty sure Shane has the right to recite the laws that are on the books lol. Your argument sucks.

  • Anonymous

    Um because Shane probably pays taxes, which are law, as well. Do you not pay any taxes? I’m pretty sure Shane has the right to recite the laws that are on the books lol. Your argument sucks.

  • Anonymous

    So $10 million a year yields no satisfaction? What am I missing here… He can go anywhere, do anything, buy practically anything.

  • Anonymous

    So $10 million a year yields no satisfaction? What am I missing here… He can go anywhere, do anything, buy practically anything.

  • Anonymous

    MINE MINE MINE my god you people are children.

    I suppose you don’t ever want your roads fixed. NASA has been the building block of a TON of stuff you probably use every day. I’d gladly take a $50 million salary and pay 2/3 in taxes, it’s still more than I make now.

  • Anonymous

    Uh no. So you’re saying you wouldn’t switch places with Phil? LOL I doubt it! If you’re getting taxed at 63 percent, the percentage of how much more you make than an average person is much much much much much more than the increase in tax percentage.

    $50k * 30% = $35,000 left over

    $50mil * 65% = $17.5 mil left over.

    You pay 35% more of percentage, yet make 500x the money. Yeah I’d take that. Totally hosed when you’re making millions makes ZERO sense. You’re the moron.

  • Anonymous

    How are you so sure donating does a lot more good than the government? Charities are only required to spend 1% of the money they take in on the actual cause. So all the money you’re donating could potentially be for more fluff than even the government could muster.

  • Anonymous

    All of the crazies like yourself have been predicting the doom of the USA since our first President. Guess what, we’ll be fine.

  • Anonymous

    Why are you so obsessed with 1776? Jefferson would have never imagined the global economy and extreme wealth gap we have today. People love to try to look at our history and apply it to today, it’s so convenient that all these people are dead and can’t be here to say what they actually believe of today’s times.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KKMA76B6GFSBWT2GHYQHV2DHTU Erny

    Bravo Mickelson….The only point here is, regardless of how much money an American makes, the Government’s out of control spending is bankrupting our country. More taxes means only more spending, not solving the spending issue. More American’s need to speak up and vote out all the spendaholics.

  • surgeprotector

    There are also many americans that make $1,000,000 that are also willing to give everything for their country so your point is idiotic.

  • surgeprotector

    And you can’t say that they wouldn’t be disturbed by how the US is being handled today. No one complained about the wealth gap 30 years ago. It is only brought up today because it is used as a tool to demonize those who earn and work hard to earn for political gain.

  • surgeprotector

    Are you that dense? That is the most idiotic comparison i have ever heard. try being fair here.

    $50k * 65% = $17,500 left over…..how would you feel if that was you?

  • Anonymous

    Was the wealth gap smaller or larger 30 years ago? Do some research. If all the wealth is funneled to the top we no longer have a democracy it is a plutocracy. There is no benefit to demonizing someone. I don’t think it’s just a tool for political gain, I believe it’s a real problem. Phil just sounds like he’s mad because he doesn’t get all the perks his uber rich buddies in other fields get that reduce their tax rate to 10%. Do you really think income inequality is the same as it was 30 years ago? Get a grip.

  • surgeprotector

    Federal tax 35%

    Cal State Tax 10.5%

    Social Security 7.65%

    State Unemployment 6.2%

    State disability Insurance 1%

    Property Tax 2.5%

    Grand total = 62.85%

    Research before saying something stupid.

  • TxSlim

    I don’t blame him. Why should anyone have to pay 63% in taxes, regardless of income level? Talk about socialism at its finest!! It is asinine to point the finger at Phil because we would ALL be complaining about that tax rate. You know why you don’t see football or basketball stars complaining? Probably because they haven’t put pen to paper and actually done the math. Most athletes are in this scenario but only a few actually know what’s going on. If he’s smart, he will start moving his money overseas to the Caymans like the rest of the wealthy. Some corporations pay very little in taxes and they get bashed by the media. Here is someone paying 2/3rds his income to taxes and we are making fun of him for the money he has earned with a God-given talent. Hypocrites.

  • BamaBoy

    He is on the board of his charities…pretty sure he knows where the money is going.

  • Anonymous

    What???? Are you drunk? My comparison is based in reality… Phil said his percentage was 65%. I guessed 50k percent was around 30%? I’m just going by how the current system is set up?

    Why would I want to debate a hypothetical about tax rates that will never happen? You need to perhaps look at how and why a progressive tax system works. $1 has the same buying power for everyone. Even after the 65% tax rate Phil still has 500x more money than the average person. Percentages mixed with real numbers seems to hurt your brain.

    But to entertain you, the $17,500 left over from your numbers would mean a reduction of $17,500 or ~$1450 per month. Like I said, $1 has the same buying power for everyone. Can you fit a car, house, kids, food in under that budget? Would it not be hard to do that? So with Phil’s 65% rate is he having those problems? No. He never says what his problems are, he just says he wants more of his money, and everyone here just says he should keep all his money. The difference in tax rates is in no way proportional to the net amount of money received.

  • surgeprotector

    And if you are going to compare apples to oranges, at least get your numbers correct…no one pays only 30% the 65% you are comparing to includes state, unemployment, insurance, social security as well as federal so your 30% should be more like 40.4%

  • Anonymous

    So my guestimate was off by 10.4%? Want to split hairs all day? How does that even change the point I was trying to make?

  • surgeprotector

    Firstly, no one here said he should keep all of his money but you are correct the difference in tax rates is not proportional to to the amount of net received, but you have not taken into account the cost of living. I.e if you make $50k you will not live the life of someone making $100k so comparing two incomes that are so far apart makes no sense hence we have to deal in percentages and yours are skewed, not to mention wrong.

  • Anonymous

    How does cost of living change anything? Yeah, you’re spending more per month on life. That’s why you have money in the first place. There is a bottom limit though not an upper limit. You need a certain amount to get to your job, put a roof over your head, and put food in your mouth. I’m not really sure what your point is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ray.felitto Ray Felitto

    These communists in Washington and Sacramento can’t get enough of our money to waste on their bleeding heart causes. I dont care how much money Phil has or Phil makes. He has earned every penny. Im sorry he backed off but Im sure his agent and sponsors suggested it. After all who wants to upset the Obamaites. They would try to intimidate him through their allies in the lefty press.

  • surgeprotector

    Because percentages is what matters here not net earnings because costs are fluid. The average household income is $62k and the average household spends 63% of their gross income on living expenses which leaves $39.6K before taxes, take out the tax and that leaves $14.5k to be spent on cars, clothing and the such. Throw those percentages to Phil and you will see a huge drop in his disposable income by 16.2%. Do the same to someone making $62K a year and they will be taking the bus and be behind in their mortgage payments. That is why cost of living is important! The more you have the more you spend the less you have the less you spend! Why should he have to lower his standard of living to accommodate a government that has no clue how to spend money wisely?

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamf.says Adamf Says

    Property tax isn’t based on income, so scrap that. And SS/MC is only applied to about 0.2% of his earnings. There may be some local tax depending on his residence, but absent that the corrected calculation is:

    35+10.5+6.2+1 = 52.7% plus whatever percentage of his income property tax works out to be (although this doesn’t change based on decreased earnings). That property tax bill would have to be close to $5M per year (meaning
    assessed value of $200M in taxable assets) to bridge the gap. Maybe another 3-5% in local, but I suspect that his actual % – while still higher than I believe is fair – is not actually in the 60s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamf.says Adamf Says

    Potentially so, yes. But unlike with the known government fluff, when you donate to a charity you have the ability to choose the most efficient options.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamf.says Adamf Says

    An income tax will never address a wealth gap. All it does is make it tougher for anyone else to join the ranks of the current uber-wealthy. Which is exactly why the Warren Buffetts of the world are in favor of higher income tax rates on those trying to catch up to him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamf.says Adamf Says

    Better “I want to keep mine” than “I want to take yours!”

  • Sean

    Don’t forget there is a number of adjustments you can make to get a lower adjusted gross income and numerous credits and exemptions for dependents that also reduce your AGI. So, depending on how much he claims, he can easily go down a few tax brackets and pay a smaller percentage. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is invested in something that is almost a guarantee loss (like a cattle ranch or something) to claim on his tax return.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamf.says Adamf Says

    95% of Americans make well more than the lower limit needed for survival. We are a generally rich country, globally speaking. So I could as easily say that $17,500 in take home pay should be plenty to take care of your basic needs. Anything else is just a matter of improved lifestyle – just like Phil.

  • Anonymous

    Because that government is the one that organizes the country that supports making Phil $50 million a year to play a game. I agree that the money is not spend wisely. No argument from me there. You even admit that a higher rate on lower income drastically reduces the standard of living of the person. How drastic is Phil’s standard of living being reduced? I would argue it’s neglible and far removed from the problems people with lower tax rates face. We should be pressuring the government to spend less and spend smart. We need infrastructure and research. That’s how America will create new opportunity. But still. I can’t feel bad for Phil. Do you?

  • Temp343

    Most of what Phil had to say is plain and simply bullshit. Social Security taxes are eating into his income? Social Security taxes are only on income up to $110,000. So the other $47.7 million don’t have a dime going to social security.

  • surgeprotector

    Absolutely correct, not to mention charitable donation deductions and the such. But also add in investment taxes he has to pay which would also raise his tax rate, i didnt add or take away those because in the end i figured it would be a wash.

  • surgeprotector

    Medicare is part of Social Security which he pays out of his total income at 2.6% roughly $1.2 million, so yeah, you are incorrect.

  • Sean

    Agreed, I’m sure his accountants are all over any kind of adjustment he can make, he’s probable has some capital losses he claims, and I’m sure they know all of the loopholes in the tax code. His gross income maybe putting him at a high tax rate, but what he actually pays is a lot less

  • Anonymous

    I never said it would address the wealth gap. I was just pointing out a huge wealth gap exists. So if warren buffet is concerned about people catching up to him why did he pledge to give most of his wealth away?

  • surgeprotector

    You cant claim Capital losses unless you pull the money out, which more likely then not, he didn’t. And, contrary to popular belief tax loopholes benefit corporations not so much the self employed so any deduction he makes only equate to roughly 3% in tax savings.

  • Doug Price

    Actually yes he does keep his own score. They all do on the tour, and each others, and then they compare them before turning in their cards.

  • Anonymous

    Who’s saying they want to take yours just for the sake of taking it?

  • surgeprotector

    The government does not do such the free market system does! And he plays a game that only a very few can play at his level. Of course i admit that just like i admit a higher rate on higher income affects someones standard of living as well. That is the comparison you should be making not because he makes more he should pay more. That’s like saying because i earn $1 million i should be taxed enough to bring my net down to $50k to be equal. Then what is the point of achieving if achievement has no value?

  • Sean

    Doesn’t he own or is invested in a fast food chain?

  • Jack

    Phil earned it, its his, period. Everyone should pay taxes but that fact is they don’t. If everyone paid their fair share then maybe Phil would only need to fork over 35%. Sure that is a lot of money but it is still his money. BTW I have found it fairly easy to make money in this country. This tax rate will be the death of ambition and hard work.

  • Anonymous

    What? The free market has none of the responsibilities the government does, maybe you misunderstood me. But there isn’t equality. He’s taxed at 63% but still makes a ton more than most people. The percentage isn’t to make his pay equal to other people’s pay. Does his achievement have no value? Millions of dollars is no value? Um? There’s many factors that go into how Phil is able to pull that much money a year, and a lot of it has to do with the shared commitment to creating a dynamic nation. When you’re making exponentially more money, yes it’s fair to say you should pay a higher percentage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamf.says Adamf Says

    At his income he is easily phased out of almost every deduction available to you and I. The investment in a perennial loser tough is highly likely.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamf.says Adamf Says

    Who is saying he wants to keep his just for the sake of keeping it?

    You are the one who boiled this down to “MINE MINE MINE”. Not me. I’m just saying that “MINE MINE MINE” is at least partially defensible when it is being said by the person who actually earned it. When someone else is yelling for it it has no defense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adamf.says Adamf Says

    Yep. He pledged to do so. At a pace that he enjoys it most of it for the rest of his life and “gives it away” when he dies. Kind of like those who freed slaves upon their death.

    He could give away all but $10m this year and still live better than 99% of the people in this country. Will he, or will he continue to reveal himself as a hypocrite?

    And if you are going to cite the wealth gap as a problem in defense of really high income tax rates on the wealthy, you are implicitly making a correlation.

  • surgeprotector

    He might, but even so that is not part of his income earnings on golf and he pays taxes on that which cannot be used as deductions on his personal income.

  • Anonymous

    Touché, but I was never yelling for higher tax rates or yelling to take Phil’s money. I boiled it down because it seems like m443s believes all taxes are bs and they should all be gone. But taxes have paid for a lot of great things. I for one wish they didn’t go to a $700 billion defense fund but I think if you care that much it’s worth advocating for how you think taxpayer money should be used.

  • surgeprotector

    Of course it was smaller, who said it wasn’t? My point was that when the gap began increasing no one complained and it began increasing about 30 years ago…60 years ago the gap was also larger than in the 80′s. What do you mean there is no benefit in demonizing someone? A certain President got elected by stating the rich don’t pay their fair share and creating a rift just to get elected. And, explain to me how the money is funneled to the top? The money is not funneled, it just stays there because the bottom doesn’t make it or spend it even though no one stops them from earning it.

  • Anonymous

    No, I was just commenting on the poster who seemed to know what Jefferson wants in 2013. It was not a defense of high income tax rates. No relation, it was me going off on a tangent.

  • mike

    Sorry dude, but your understanding of taxes is what is stupid…. embarrassing.

  • surgeprotector

    Is that so? Enlighten me..please. I cant wait to see what your little mind comes up with.

  • Anonymous

    Seriously? No one has complained? Bahahahhahahahah. Yeah Obama totally only got elected because of the things his campaign said about Romney. Everyone hates Obama but hates Romney even more. LOL. Evading taxes is totally patriotic. If I make less money and taxed at 30% and someone exponentially makes more but is taxed at 13% while providing services a lot of people use, well yes that is quite the funnel to the top.

  • surgeprotector

    You are correct about property tax but he still pays that out of his income every year no matter what and the 2.5% is a local tax. Furthermore, SS is capped at $110k but he still pays out 2% to medicare out of his total income. My error was actually putting in 35% instead of the new tax of 39% and 10.5% instead of the new instituted state tax of 12.5% so 39%+12.5%+6.2%+1%+2%= 60.7% not counting the local tax on property

  • surgeprotector

    His achievement is equated in dollars and you are saying he should be taxed more because he achieved more. Your idea that because he “is able to pull that much money a year” he should give more is not a great argument to make because he already gives more that you and me. He makes more and pays more and now because he still makes more he should pay even more? He already pays millions in taxes you pay thousands but your response is, he needs to pay more and you less?

  • surgeprotector

    good point

  • Anonymous

    What? You just put so many words in my mouth I never said. Not sure I’m going to continue to debate this with you. I never said I should pay less. Never said he should pay more. He should pay what he is required to pay and not cry publicly about it, and I will continue to pay what I do. I would gladly take Phil’s salary and tax rate. I support this country. Apparently you don’t.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/barry.udoff Barry Udoff

    yeah, let’s take tax advice from a guy that thinks property tax is income tax.

  • surgeprotector

    wow you are a moron, is reading the english language too hard for you? 2.5% is a local tax in Santa Fe idiot.

  • surgeprotector

    Now you are comparing two different tax systems but if you want to go that route…the 13% (Capital gains tax) you are talking about has already been taxed at 35% when it was initially invested and only re-taxed after a gain has been made. Apples and grapefruits now, NO ONE has an income tax charge of 13% but a very few have a Capital Gains earnings tax of 13%. If you make less money and taxed 30% you are still paying less than the person making more money and being charged 39% by a huge margin. Remember you said that money has value.

  • silverslim

    How many golf clubs did the government swing to “earn” their 30 million? Why is it that you flamers can’t stand to see someone with skill/talent succeed? All you can think of is how unfair it is that you don’t have the talent to do the same thing…so you want to parasitize those that do. It is sickening.

  • Anonymous

    We are comparing tax systems when the original point is about money funneling to the top and wealth gap. Yeah I brought up someone paying overall low percentages but Phil is not someone who is paying those anyway. A progressive income tax is the best option. There are things the government can do well with the money if they could get it together. *!!!* I do think higher earners should pay a higher percentage. Making more money is a measurable number. Is your happiness in life tied directly to that number? As you make more that number goes up and up. Does your appreciation of life increase dollar by dollar? Can you honestly feel upset about what you’ve paid in taxes when you’re in Phil Mickelson $50 million I play golf status? You still dollar by dollar have way more left over that practically everyone! Maybe the problem is that money has lost its value to Phil…??

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.conroy.37 Steve Conroy

    If that’s what he’s whining about, he needs to fire his financial planner and find a real one.

  • RJ RJ

    oh my

  • vetnam67

    I agree w/Phil 100%. Don’t mess w/taxes, I mean Texas. Go Phil!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kathy-Agel/1277547528 Kathy Agel

    It’s a marginal tax rate, people — he doesn’t pay the top rate on his entire winnings/sponsorships, and he only pays Social Security on the first $110K. Property tax? Whatever it is, it’s deductible on his Federal return, and it’s not a percentage of his income. Since he’s self-employed, his expenses are deductible as well. So, no, I don’t feel sorry for him at all. And I used to like him a lot until he opened his mouth and made this ridiculous statement. Does he realize that most of his fans have to survive on far less than what he carries around as pocket change?


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