Everyone from opposing defenses to autograph dealers to the NCAA have tried to tackle Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in various forms in the last year, and the Heisman Trophy-winning sophomore has been too slippery for all of them.
But is he too slippery for the IRS?
That's essentially the question raised by texastalk.com, which wondered aloud with an opinion column this week about what Manziel's tax return will look like next April. Or perhaps more to the point, what it looked like last April. If indeed Manziel accepted money for thousands of autographs, as was aggregately alleged in three ESPN reports, he has a tough decision to make come tax time, writes attorney David Gair:
"What should he do at tax time? Report the income or keep up his story that he never got anything? He is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he fails to report his income on his return, then he has just committed a crime. Willfully filing a false tax return is a felony that can net you three to five years in jail depending on the charge. But reporting the income on the tax return could be an admission that he violated NCAA rules. Between the two, if I were him, I would chose not to violate federal law."
Gair suggests the IRS, as a means of deterrence, would find the possibility of a tax evasion case against Manziel to be very appealing. The bigger the star, the more people think twice about fudging their income statements with Uncle Sam. Baseball stars Pete Rose and Daryl Strawberry failed to report income from autograph signings and were convicted for it, Gair points out.
Would the IRS treat a 20-year-old college kid with a softer touch?
Would the IRS even be willing to dig into Manziel's dealings with autograph brokers knowing that cash transactions, common in the memorabilia industry, are a nightmare to trace to a legal certainty?
If Manziel pocketed thousands of undeclared dollars, he should hope so.