Feed on

In Hillenmeyer v. Cleveland Bd. of Rev., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-1623, the Ohio Supreme Court found that:

Cleveland’s use of the games-played method violates due process as applied to NFL players such as Hillenmeyer. Under the duty-days method, which provides due process and satisfies Cleveland’s municipal-income-tax ordinance, Hillenmeyer is entitled to a partial refund of the tax paid. While other computation methods might also provide due process, Cleveland has not suggested any method of alternative relief.

Id. at ¶ 53.

Hillenmeyer’s due process claim was based on the U.S. Constitution.  No due process claim under the Ohio Constitution was made.

Hillenmeyer argued that Cleveland’s method of taxing professional sports players from visiting teams violates the player’s Equal Protection rights under both the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions.  Former R.C. 718.011 provided that cities can not tax someone who worked in the city for twelve or fewer days that year, unless the personal is a  professional entertainer or athlete (and other exceptions).  Hillenmeyer only played two games in Cleveland. The Ohio Supreme Court found that Hillenmeyer’s exclusion from the 12-day grace period did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.  There was sufficient rational basis to make an exception for professional athletes in the tax statute, because:

First, professional athletes are typically highly paid, and their work is easy to find, so that a city could earn significant revenue with comparative ease.   Second, the legislature could rationally find that professional athletes and entertainers and their events incur much larger public burdens relating to police protection and traffic and crowd control, among other public services, than do other occasional entrants. We conclude that these two factors, in addition to the reliance interest of municipalities in the continued levy of existing taxes, are sufficient to justify the exclusion of a professional athlete such as Hillenmeyer from the 12-day grace period.

Id. at ¶ 32.

Also see: Oral argument preview.  Oral Argument Video for this case.

Leave a Reply