Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Every year my nonprofit law class has a lively discussion about whether revenue from college football games, including revenues from bowl game broadcast contracts, ought to be exempt from taxation on grounds that the activity is educational. This discussion is particularly relevant to students attending my university, since our football program has been mired in scandal for more than a year and many of the facts that have emerged indicate that at least some football players are barely engaged in our school's educational program.
Now comes word that the citizenry is, at least arguably, further subsidizing college football programs by means of an additional, veiled tax exemption. According to an item in the Nonprofit Quarterly, which in turn is reporting on an investigation carried out by Bloomberg News, many colleges require charitable donations to the school in return for the privilege of buying season tickets at face value. The donor/ticket purchasers then write off the value of the mandatory donations, costing the U.S. treasury as much as $100 million per year. Ohio State University and LSU were singled out as particularly successful (or egregious, depending on your point of view) with this quite common strategy.