Ndamukong Suh on athletes' taxes: 'We're hit very heavily'

Nobody is going to feel sorry for Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, whose two NFL contracts add up to about $180 million. But as one of the NFL’s richest players, he’s also well aware of the reality of those numbers.

Aside from the common refrain that very few NFL players who get mega-deals get all of the reported money, because salaries aren’t guaranteed, there’s the tax aspect to big contracts. So next week, when NFL free agency opens, keep in mind Suh’s explanation to Business Insider of what happens to the money in those big contracts. He used the example of his rookie deal with the Detroit Lions, saying half of it was gone to taxes and other standard expenses.

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“Uncle Sam, the new tax reform, 37 percent goes to him,” Suh told Business Insider. “And then you have to factor in, I was in Detroit, so you have to factor in taxes there. So that would be Michigan state taxes and then you have the city of Detroit taxes, which is going to be 1 or 2 percent.

“So after you look at the particular piece, I’m probably, if I’m not mistaken, Michigan is at like 4 or 5 percent, so that’s 42 [percent of the deal]. City of Detroit’s 1 or 2 [percent], so you’ve got 43 [percent of the deal], then you throw your agent fees, that’s 45, and then you throw in the concept of inflation, which is another 3 [percent], that’s 48, and then living expenses, let’s just say that’s 2 percent, you’re at 50 percent.”

Suh also mentioned to Business Insider the “jock tax,” in which athletes are taxed when they play road games in other states. One has to figure a star athlete’s accountant has his hands full before April 15.

“Athletes have large W2s; we’re hit very heavily,” Suh said.

That reality is a nebulous concept for many young men just out of college who suddenly sign a pro contract worth millions. Then there are often family members and friends who want to be taken care of (former NFL running back Trent Richardson’s tale of how his career went sideways sums that up well), and the sometimes impulsive spending of someone in their early 20s (would you have been responsibly investing if you had millions at 23 years old?). Those salary figures reported in contracts dry up faster than expected.

“I think people have allusions of, there’s no reason guys should ever go broke,” Suh told Business insider. “I don’t think people see those things and understand what goes into that.”

Of course Suh explaining how quickly money goes out the door with taxes alone won’t be taken well by those who see reported contract numbers and get reflexively angry. But Suh made some fair and useful points. Hopefully the lessons are heeded by his fellow players.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh described how athletes' contracts are taxed. (AP)
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh described how athletes’ contracts are taxed. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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