Soon, pro athletes will pay to play in Philadelphia

November 20, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- When the city of Philadelphia announced two months ago that it was levying a city wage tax on visiting professional athletes, a lot of people, including a number of visiting professional athletes, laughed.

But the city is having the last laugh.

The Philadelphia Daily News has learned that the city is close to striking deals with the four major professional sports leagues and their unions that would clear the way for the city to start collecting back taxes from out-of-town athletes.

"Right now, the agreement we're playing with is with the players associations," said Andrew Bralow, the city's chief deputy solicitor. "We expect that when they're on board, the leagues will withhold [wages to pay the back taxes].

"There's no question that they're going to have to for the future. We're just giving them enough time to get their books together."

The unions can't force their players to pay the city wage tax. But they have agreed to encourage them to do so. In return, the city has agreed not to charge any interest, fines or penalties on back taxes that are paid promptly.

"All of the players associations have been working together for something that Philadelphia and the players could be comfortable with," said Charles Grantham, executive director of the NBA Players Association.

"The tax is what it is. We just wanted to have a level of comfort and make sure the players weren't in any way being discriminated against."

"Our position is that we're going to encourage voluntary compliance so long as the city doesn't go back a number of years and try to impose penalties and interest and all that kind of stuff," said an NFL Players Association executive who asked that his name not be used.

"The bottom line is the city has a right to do this. Nobody likes the idea of paying taxes. But the city, so long as it gives proper notice, has a right to collect taxes from people who come in there."

Besides athletes, such visiting professionals as doctors and lawyers also are targeted.

The city initially intended to collect taxes on wages earned in Philadelphia as far back as 1986. But as part of their deal with the unions, city officials agreed to reduce the time period, probably to four years.

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