Republican targets NFL tax exemption

Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzTrump, GOP at new crossroads on deficit Chaffetz: Spending vote means GOP 'lost every single bit of credibility' on debt Let’s not fail in our second chance to protect Bears Ears MORE (R-Utah) is taking another shot at ending the tax exemption for professional sports leagues.

Just days ahead of the Super Bowl, Chaffetz introduced legislation on Tuesday that would strip both the National Football League and the National Hockey League of their tax-exempt status. 

“Professional sports organizations aren’t fooling anybody. Organizations like the NFL and NHL are for-profit businesses making millions of dollars each year. These are not charities nor are they traditional trade organizations. They are for-profit businesses and should be taxed as such,” said Chaffetz. “Closing this loophole should be combined with closing several other loopholes in order to lower tax rates in a revenue-neutral manner."

Chaffetz, a former kicker at Brigham Young University, made a similar attempt a year ago. Former Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnPaul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism Republicans in Congress shouldn't try to bring back earmarks Republicans should know reviving earmarks is a political nightmare MORE (R-Okla.), who retired at the end of last year, was the driving force for the proposal on the other side of the Capitol.

Under the current set-up, the NFL and NHL are organized as trade associations — akin to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — in the tax code. Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association don't have tax exemptions.

For the NFL and NHL, that means the league offices are tax-exempt, but not the teams themselves and ticket and jersey sales — a point that league officials defending the exemption have been quick to make. 

Even so, the Joint Committee on Taxation said last year that repealing the exemption would raise about $109 million in revenue over a decade. Critics of the leagues' tax status also insist that leagues that can pay officials like NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tens of millions of dollars a year don't need the exemption.

Former House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) proposed rolling back the exemption in his tax reform plan last year.