LeBron James Tax Planning Move

07/17/2010

I wonder if taxes had anything to do with LeBron James choosing the Miami Heat over the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks. Both Ohio and New York collect income taxes while Florida collects neither. New York, in fact, has one of the highest income tax rates in the country and Ohio's income tax rate hovers at around 6%. Tax consequences could have therefore been at least a factor in LeBron James' decision to move to Miami because the Heat could pay the basketball superstar significantly less than Cleveland and New York and yet he may very well take home more because his earnings won't be taxed by Florida.

Note that simply signing a contract with the Miami Heat will not make LeBron James subject to Florida tax law as opposed to Ohio's tax law.  And since LeBron James angered most everyone in Cleveland by signing with the Heat, the State of Ohio might try to get the last laugh by contesting the "move" from an income tax perspective and arguing that he is still domiciled in Ohio and therefore continues to owe Ohio tax.  To make the case that he is no longer domiciled in Ohio (even if he continues to own his Ohio home), the basketball superstar should take affirmative steps to establish Florida as his true home. This could include, among other things, spending the majority of his time in Florida; purchasing a home in Florida; getting a Florida driver's license; registering to vote in Florida and actually voting; moving his assets to Florida; using Florida professional advisors (attorneys, accountants, financial managers, bankers); and, of course, making or updating his estate plan to comply with Florida law. 

And moving from Ohio might not just be good tax planning.  With Cleveland residents taking to the streets and burning LeBron James' jerseys, for his own safety, Ohio is probably the last place LeBron James should live.