Mickelson takes mulligan on controversial tax comments

Apologizes for making thoughts public; complaints about new rates drew ire of some fans

Jan 22, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

Phil Mickelson apologized for saying he would have to make “drastic changes” due to new U.S. and California tax laws. The 42-year-old golf champion said the comments should have remained private.

“Finances and taxes are a personal matter and I should not have made my opinions on them public,” Mickelson, a winner of four major golf titles, said in a statement released today by his management company. “I apologize to those I have upset or insulted and assure you I intend to not let it happen again.”

Following his final round of the U.S. PGA Tour's Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California, two days ago, Mickelson was asked to elaborate on his comments during a Jan. 14 conference call about the reduced schedule of another veteran U.S. golfer, 45-year-old Steve Stricker.

“I'm not going to jump the gun, but there's going to be some drastic changes for me, because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted federally and by the state,” Mickelson told reporters. “It doesn't work for me right now, so I'm going to have to make some changes.”

Stricker has said he will play a limited schedule this season. When asked if he would consider a similar plan, Mickelson said he wasn't sure.

“I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do yet,” he said after tying for 37th at Humana. “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 at 62 to 63 percent. So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do.”

Mixed Reaction

The comments, made the day before Democrat Barack Obama was publicly sworn in for his second term as U.S. president, drew a mixed reaction from golf fans. Many of the more than 1,200 comments received on a GolfChannel.com article about his remarks were critical of his plan, while others said it would be “hard to blame” him if he wanted to move out of California.

California's Proposition 30, a recently passed sales- and income-tax law, raised state taxes on income over $1 million annually to 13.3 percent from 10.3 percent, a 29.1 percent increase. The top rate under new federal laws is 39.6 percent on taxable income above $450,000 for married couples, up from 35 percent in 2012. There also are higher rates on capital gains and dividends.

Florida Move

Many professional athletes, including California-born Tiger Woods, live in Florida, where there is no state income tax. Woods holds the money-winning record for the PGA Tour, with $101 million in career purses.

“I moved out of here in '96 for that reason,” Woods said in a pre-tournament press conference for this week's U.S. PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines golf club in San Diego, California. “I understand what he was, I think, trying to say.”

Forbes magazine ranked Mickelson the seventh highest-paid athlete in 2012 with $47.8 million in earnings, including $43 million in endorsements from sponsors, including the accounting firm KPMG LLP and Barclays Plc (BARC), Britain's second-largest bank. He's won $67.7 million in prize money during his PGA Tour career.

In December, Mickelson withdrew his ownership interest in Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres. Asked after his final round at Humana if the new tax laws affected that decision, Mickelson said, “Yeah, absolutely.”

'Intelligent Decisions'

“Right now, I'm like many Americans who are trying to understand the new tax laws,” he said in today's statement. “I've been learning a lot over the last few months and talking with people who are trying to help me make intelligent and informed decisions. I certainly don't have a definitive plan at this time, but like everyone else I want to make decisions that are best for my future and my family.”

A San Diego native, Mickelson will play this week at Torrey Pines near his hometown. He originally said he planned to address his recent comments during a press conference tomorrow before deciding to issue today's statement.

“I absolutely love what I do,” he said. “I love and appreciate the game of golf and the people who surround it. I'm as motivated as I've ever been to work on my game, to compete and to win championships.”

--Bloomberg News--

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