Mickelson backs off tax talk

The golfer apologizes for his statement about higher rates. Tax experts say that wasn't his only miscalculation.

By Jason Notte Jan 24, 2013 1:57PM
File photo of Phil Mickelson in July 2012 ( Hunter Martin/Getty Images)Phil Mickelson admits he bogeyed his statements on taxes, but he might also want to double check the math on his financial scorecard before filing this year.

The Hall of Fame golfer has taken home $66 million in winnings during his career and ranks seventh on Forbes' 2012 list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. Last year alone, he took in $4.8 million in earnings and another $43 million in endorsements.

On Sunday, after his final round of the Humana Challenge in California, he said the federal tax rate combined with California passing Proposition 30 -- the first tax increase in the state since 2004 -- would force him to make "drastic changes" and prevent him from owning a stake in his hometown San Diego Padres.

"If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate is 62, 63%," Mickelson said. "So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do."

Wednesday, he backed off of those statements during a press conference and equated them to a shot he shanked into sponsors' tents during the 2006 U.S. Open to cost him the title.

As he was making those statements, researchers at the Tax Foundation were telling CNN that Mickelson's tax rate is likely closer to 51%, but that he may pay as little as 26%.

Mickelson didn't rule out leaving San Diego and California altogether and wouldn't clarify whether or not he thought he was paying his fair share. ("I don't know what that is right now," he told reporters Wednesday, according to ESPN.) However, he apologized profusely for complaining publicly about taxes on his millions in a state where unemployment is just under 10%.

"I think that it was insensitive to talk about it publicly to those people who are not able to find a job, that are struggling paycheck to paycheck," Mickelson said. "I think that was insensitive to discuss it in that forum."

Fudging the math didn't help his case, either. According to the Tax Foundation, Mickelson would be subject to the 39.6% top federal tax rate passed under the fiscal cliff deal, the top 12.3% state tax rate, the 1% California mental health surcharge and a 3.8% medicare tax rate. With state taxes deductible from federal taxes, that puts Mickelson's rate at roughly 51%. Deductions tend to add up, as the Tax Foundation also notes that millionaires tend to pay only 26% in federal income tax on average.

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Jan 24, 2013 5:27PM

He most likely does pay more than 50% in total taxes when you account for everything else below, but I know most zombies still don't think we are being taxed enough. Wake up people.  Sure he plays golf and makes a lot of money.  You know why?  Because he busted his **** and made himself one of the best in his "profession"  It's the same with any other career.  Work harder, smarter, get to the top most likely you'll make something out of yourself and be successful.  I'd much rather hear a rich guy complain about paying in too much in taxes than a deadbeat who watches Judge Judy all day complain about not getting enough welfare.  He is paying into the system as opposed to sucking the teat dry.


Accounts Receivable Tax

Building Permit Tax

Capital Gains Tax

CDL license Tax

Cigarette Tax

Corporate Income Tax

Court Fines (indirect taxes)

Dog License Tax

Federal Income Tax

Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)

Fishing License Tax

Food License Tax

Fuel permit tax

Gasoline Tax

Gift Tax

Hunting License Tax

Inheritance Tax

Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)

IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)

Liquor Tax

Local Income Tax

Luxury Taxes

Marriage License Tax

Medicare Tax

Payroll Taxes

Property Tax

Real Estate Tax

Recreational Vehicle Tax

Road Toll Booth Taxes

Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)

Sales Taxes

School Tax

Septic Permit Tax

Service Charge Taxes

Social Security Tax

State Income Tax

State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)

Telephone federal excise tax

Telephone federal universal service fee tax

Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes

Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax

Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax

Telephone state and local tax

Telephone usage charge tax

Toll Bridge Taxes

Toll Tunnel Taxes

Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)

Trailer registration tax

Utility Taxes

Vehicle License Registration Tax

Vehicle Sales Tax

Watercraft registration Tax

Well Permit Tax

Workers Compensation Tax

Jan 24, 2013 3:57PM
51%???  Why should anyone have to work half the year just to pay their taxes?  I don't care how much you make, that's ridiculous. 
Jan 24, 2013 5:30PM



No not brain dead. My point is Phil HAS a right to complain. He will pay more than half his income to income taxes. You on the other hand -sarcastically say that your combined property and income taxes equals only 1/4th of your income, and you feel Phil is greedy. My point is you pay very little in both percentage, and real dollars compared to him, yet you feel he is the greedy one.


Since our government is of the people by the people, it appears as though you want to tax Phil more so YOU can be taxed less. I believe YOU are the greedy one here.

Jan 24, 2013 2:36PM

Stop it already with the hand wringing self inflicted guilt trip most of the wealthy succumb to, just like ole Phil here.  You made it, you earned it, MOST of it should be yours.  "insensitive", "unfair", BS.  Your remuneration in life is based on your natural abilities combined with some drive and ambition and an overriding desire to avoid being poor.

Jan 24, 2013 4:02PM

There is something disconcerting about a system that claims it is justified to take the larger share of what one earns than what one keeps no matter what the level of income might be.  It seems as though those who make more, especially those who make much more should be able to pay more and it seems correct to expect them to do so.  But to say that the system is justified to take the larger share of what one makes doesn't seem right.  If  the total taken by the system, with all levels combined, adds up to 51%, that is larger than what one keeps.  When we get to this point don't we approach the situation where one would start to have disincentive?  Why should one be enterprising beyond that point if the system takes the larger share.  To say that it is not 51% because of the deductions does not seem right either.  That is because deductions are qualified and that is the system telling one how to use what one keeps in order to get the deductions.  This whole system of deductions and credits and special calculations is what is causing our tax code to be 26000 pages!  Enough already!  Simplify the tax code!  Tax at a much lower level!  Include more taxpayers and watch the treasuries receive more revenue.  Only the rich can afford the armies of lawyers and accountants to take advantage of all 26000 pages of convoluted tax law and thus end up paying a lower percentage than us in the middle. 

Jan 24, 2013 6:38PM
LOL, at 51%, the envious lazy bum liberals still feel he's not paying his fair share, even though they probably pay nothing themselves
Jan 25, 2013 10:57AM
Phil..it is a valid point! California is eating its babies. Move to Nevada like I am going to. Great weather, pools, golf courses..etc..etc
Jan 24, 2013 6:34PM
I'd encourage Phil to simply claim citizenship in Singapore or Switzerland, pay 50% less tax...he can play golf as he always did before and Stop paying for a bunch of envious liberal bums
Jan 24, 2013 5:20PM



"Your defense of the uncommonly rich is uncalled for" you say? Perhaps that is because I believe our government should treat us all equally -equal rights with equal responsibilities. I don't believe our government should wage war on individuals because they are a success. Frankly -the uncommonly rich shouldn't NEED defending, but for some reason it has become fashionable to treat wealthy people as though they OWE us, the rest of society, something. Why does having wealth mean they must share it with you and me? Are we not basically just stealing it from them?

Jan 24, 2013 2:16PM
No need to apologize, Phil.  And if you add up ALL the taxes and gov fees he pays, he's probably over that 62% estimate.
Jan 24, 2013 4:11PM



Good grief - a little too greedy you say? Are you serious? This guy MIGHT get his taxes down to 51% and you say he's too greedy? The government wants MORE than half of what he EARNS and you say he's too greedy?


What % do you pay may I ask, and do you feel YOU are too greedy? 

Jan 24, 2013 9:22PM
Everyone who really pays into the system pays too much when your government can flush millions and Billions away that it hasn't even collected yet. And what return does this foreign aid (sugar) have? Pakistan and Turkey? wow Egypt and Syria have really performed and our CEO's (Obama and Bush) are still getting their paychecks too. And Congress (the Board) insist we pay for more bungling and for past addictions. And the liberals are dumb and happy. Must be nice.
Jan 30, 2013 2:13PM
Phil would make a smart move, if he came to Texas. Our State is going to GIVE BACK a billion and some tax dollars to the taxpayers! Phil would not only SAVE millions, if he got out of MEXIfornia, he would make money. by moving to Texas. There are more Professional golfers living in Dallas, than anywhere else.
Jan 29, 2013 7:54PM
Mitt Romneys tax rate was 61 percent, that is way too much 35 percent would have been plenty.
Jan 24, 2013 8:16PM
My late CPA father (passed exam after WWII w/o college, but had years as a bookkeeper/auditor) would have paid attention to the golfer's case.  He had a few rich clients, and he was involved in the '86 Reagan reform. 
Feb 8, 2013 6:16AM

It is a true shame that he is only allowed to keep a mere 38 million dollars this year for all of his back breaking work playing golf and oh yes, making a few commercials.  What hellish place is this, that an exceptional talent can't be exploited to the point of worship and placement above the rest. Of course he shouldn't have to pay taxes like us others.  He is above and beyond us, better, more perfect.  Why can't we see that?    

Feb 6, 2013 8:02PM
we are all like the little dogs who go to the end of their retractable leashes, and keep pulling!
Jan 24, 2013 5:45PM
Now BLS, I can see where you are going, the old flat tax idea.  Quite to the contrary, i believe in a PROGRESSIVE tax structure....in other words, those who make more, pay more, a higher percentage then those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder.  I think it was said earlier, that half gallon of milk, the pound of hamburger or butter, costs everyone the same amount of "after tax income".  Anyway, BLS, you are evading my question...I put it out there...what is your taxable earnings and what is your tax rate, the amount of taxes you are paying.  C'mon now BLS, the truth will set you free.
Jan 29, 2013 3:15PM
its all about the cash dont take my we gad it you wimp anybody ius watching you is just to dumm to understand
Jan 29, 2013 3:14PM
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