Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Who are we?

L.E. Eisenmenger tweeted this morning about the series of articles recently posted entitled "Player agent Mike Wheeler explains third-party ownership in MLS", on Excellent interview and gives a very nice overview of some of the business side of what goes on in the game. This is a must read for anyone really interested at the high levels of the game, a business/law junkie, or both, like me.

It got my head clicking a little bit ... but first, a disclaimer:
First, please re-read the Legal Stuff page and note that what I am sharing is a personal opinion, not legal or tax advise. In no way should anything I am about to write ... you are about to read ... should be considered advise in any way, just an opinion.

With tax season right around the corner, and LE's article above, it reminded me what status a referee takes in the financial and taxation world.

First, believe me, individual referee and leagues can get into BIG trouble with the IRS for failing to pay the appropriate amount of taxes on their wages. Look at this article "IRS CALLS FOUL ON COACHES AND REFEREES AS INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS", where a Connecticut youth soccer league is facing $334,441 in fines and back taxes for failing to file employment taxes for two tax years.

An individual referee could fall into a couple of broad categories as far as the IRS is concerned. One is an employee of an organization. While this is rare, it does happen at times. For example MLS has 2 or 3 referees on their payroll at last word. Here, MLS takes on various responsibilities to the IRS. Precise terms are based on whatever employment agreement MLS has with these folks.

Alternatively, a referee may be an independent contractor. For example when I worked in WUSA I was under an independent contractor agreement where I had the responsibility to report my earnings to the IRS and pay the appropriate taxes.

As a slight spin on this, when I was very active, I set up and ran my own refereeing business and reported my earnings on a Schedule C to the IRS. While it was never work, it was a real business and I ran it as such to keep tabs on what was going on and make sure I stayed clear on any IRS issues.

As a side note, it was good training for the future too.

Now, making the determination if you are an employee or an independent contractor may not always be clear. You may actually be one or the other even absent an express agreement. There are some resources out there to help make that determination. One from the IRS is here.

US Soccer has some very useful information on its web site as well regarding this topic. ARE REFEREES INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS, is a good article that goes through many of these factors detailed by the IRS and while seemingly aimed at the leagues that utilize referees, it is instructive for referees as well.

Also INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS, is a good perspective for the leagues to assure maintenance of independent contractor status of their referees.

Long story short, while for most, if not all of us, refereeing is not a job, but it is a source of income. Also (like it or not) some of that income may be taxable, or at least reported. Take some time in this off season, and consider your options and obligations.

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