Like many fans, Georgia Tech ticket holders affected by tax changes

Feb 02, 2018
Johnny Crawford/AJC file
A Georgia Tech cheerleader waves the giant GT flag after a Georgia Tech touchdown in Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 19, 2013. JOHNNY CRAWFORD / AJC file

Georgia Tech fans, as well as those at schools across the state and nationwide, have a new choice to make about donations to their schools’ athletic departments for the right to purchase season tickets for football and men’s basketball games.

Until now, donations that were required to purchase certain season tickets, such as those Tech fans have made to the Tech Fund, were 80 percent tax deductible. However, after the tax-reform legislation passed in December, those donations can no longer be written off.

The change has caused concern within athletic departments across the country, and Tech is no different in its efforts to adjust and prepare. At a board meeting of the Georgia Tech Athletic Association last week, associate athletic director Marvin Lewis informed the board that the change could have an impact on athletic-department revenues as fans may reconsider the amount of their donations.

“We’re all strategizing on what’s the way in which we present this because, yes, the tax deduction won’t be available moving forward, but people give to support our programs, so how do we package our messaging moving forward, knowing that the IRS won’t allow you to deduct that same contribution,” Lewis said.

The athletic department receives almost $5 million annually through the Tech Fund for seat-license revenue, Lewis said. That’s about 6 percent of the department’s $84.3 million budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Football season tickets will go on sale Feb. 22.

A family making $150,000 annually that makes a $500 Tech Fund donation for season tickets would pay about $125 more in taxes without the deduction available, according to Richard Brock, a CPA with Brock Accounting Services.

In a sampling of 12 Tech football season-ticket holders, all 12 indicated that the tax reform would not alter their current donation level, although two said that it has or may impact future decisions.

Matt Balaun, a season-ticket holder since 2014, said he had been considering upgrading his family’s season tickets to club level, which last season required a $700 per-seat donation.

“Don't get me wrong, I love Georgia Tech and am not going to stop supporting the school or the team, but I simply can't justify spending significantly more on tickets when I'm already reasonably happy with the seats I've got,” Balaun wrote in an email. “The tax deduction was a significant factor in determining my contribution level, and that's going away.”

Others who said they wouldn’t be impacted had similar reasons for their stance. Tyler Gaines, who holds six season tickets, wrote in an email that “I didn’t give to Tech for tax-deduction reasons, so that wasn’t a part of my decision to start with.”

“I am a fan, so it will not affect me,” Joe Belcher wrote. “I am going to go to the games. The deduction was just a little bonus.”

Another fan, Adam Zurawski, reached out to the athletic department to prepay his Tech Fund donation in December 2017 to take advantage of the tax deduction while it still existed. A football season-ticket holder for 13 years, Zurawski said that the tailgating and game experience have been a staple of his family’s life, and he did not expect that to change, nor would his support and commitment to the Yellow Jackets.

However, with a third child on the way, “The tax changes may cause our family to reconsider the finances required for future upgrades to higher Tech Fund sections,” he wrote.