In a stunning turn of events, Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese pitcher, recently signed a remarkable $700 million contract with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the eye-popping aspect of this deal is the deferral of $680 million over a span of 10 years. As anticipated, this colossal contract has ignited discussions on the future tax implications for both Ohtani and the state of California, especially if the pitcher were to relocate. Prompted by this development, California’s controller, Malia Cohen, has called for immediate action from Congress to address and restrict deferred income for higher earners. This article will delve into the issue at hand and explore the potential consequences that such deferred income arrangements may have on tax structures.

Cohen argues that the current tax system in California permits unlimited deferrals for individuals fortunate enough to find themselves in the highest tax brackets, thereby creating an alarming imbalance. The absence of reasonable caps on deferrals for the wealthiest individuals, she claims, exacerbates income inequality and hinders the fair distribution of taxes. Consequently, Cohen urges Congress to rectify this issue promptly, emphasizing the necessity of imposing restrictions on deferred income.

According to estimates provided by the California Center for Jobs and the Economy, deferring $68 million annually for a decade could potentially save Ohtani a staggering $98 million over the course of his contract. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that these estimates are contingent upon several assumptions, and the exact terms of Ohtani’s contract remain undisclosed. While this estimation paints a vivid picture of potential tax savings resulting from deferred income, it also brings to light the existence of loopholes that enable high-earning individuals to minimize their tax liabilities.

While California’s controller seeks to address the issue of deferred income, it is important to recognize that this alone may not fully resolve the problem at hand. According to Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, the root of the issue lies within a federal law enacted in 1995 by a Republican Congress. This law was implemented to prevent states from taxing pension income, inadvertently creating a loophole that can be exploited. In the case of Ohtani, given his ability to return to Japan and evade California taxes, it becomes evident that the source of the problem surpasses matters of deferred income.

As some Democrats advocate for higher taxes on the wealthy, it is worth noting that lawmakers have predominantly focused on areas such as unrealized gains or investment growth, rather than deferred income. William McBride, the vice president of federal tax policy at the Tax Foundation, points out that deferred income exists throughout the tax code, encompassing income from sources like 401(k) plans or executive compensation. Implementing restrictions on deferred income might lead to unintended consequences; it restricts the state’s capacity to collect revenue from high-earning individuals and sports stars who may ultimately choose to relocate elsewhere.

In light of the complications surrounding deferred income and the potential tax revenue loss for the state of California, the urgency for Congressional intervention is evident. This issue demands careful consideration and a thoughtful approach to ensure a fair and balanced tax system that does not solely burden the highest earners. Congressional action is crucial to address the existing loopholes, prevent tax avoidance, and preserve the integrity of the tax structure.

The fortuitous signing of Ohtani’s record-breaking contract has brought attention to the pressing matter of deferred income and its impact on tax structures. California’s controller, Malia Cohen, encourages Congress to take immediate action to rectify this imbalance and impose restrictions on deferred income. However, it is vital to recognize the complexities surrounding this issue, including existing loopholes and potential unintended consequences. The focus on deferred income alone may not suffice, and alternative areas of tax reform should be explored. Ultimately, a comprehensive and nuanced approach is necessary to ensure a fair and equitable tax system for all.


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