D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said his proposed budget doesn't include any new taxes and it doesn't -- that is, not on District residents.
But Gray's 2013 Budget Request Act includes a provision allowing the city to tax the income of big league athletes who play here but don't live in the District. Known as the "jock tax," it's a common practice in other states but criticized by opponents who say it's unfairly applied.
A spokesman for Gray said, yes, technically Gray's "no new taxes" policy does in fact just apply to residents.
"We just find it silly that every other jurisdiction in this country, this is how they do business [and D.C. doesn't]," said Pedro Ribeiro.
The tax applies to any income earned while an athlete who does not live in the District is playing in the city. Pros on the city's local teams would be hit the hardest, as most live outside D.C. But it also applies to visiting athletes by subjecting a portion of their paychecks to D.C. income tax for as long as they're here.
The act would change the city's Home Rule Charter but would have to be approved by Congress. Past administrations have made attempts at similar changes, but Congress has nixed it every time.
Experts said most states that have income taxes also apply a jock tax and some have even extended the provision to cover performers and other entertainers.
"In a strapped economy, municipalities are reaching out for revenue in any form and it's always convenient to tax the rich," Linta said. "The argument that athletes have is 'Why should I be treated any more different than a traveling [performer]?'" Linta said.
Critics call the tax bad policy for exactly that reason. It's also complicated to administer and collect and can be overly burdensome to those who work for a team, said Joseph Henchman, vice president of State & Legal Projects for the Tax Foundation.