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  • Writer's pictureAZ Moyer

Navigating the Playing Field: Tax Implications of NIL Deals in the NCAA

The Huddle

In recent years, the landscape of college sports has undergone a significant transformation. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) decision to allow college athletes to profit from their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) has opened new opportunities for these student-athletes. With this shift, a myriad of opportunities have emerged in endorsement deals, sponsorships, and social media promotions. However, along with these exciting prospects come important considerations concerning tax implications. In this article, we'll explore the key tax aspects of NIL deals and offer guidance to help student-athletes make informed financial decisions.

Understanding Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) Deals

Before diving into the tax implications, it's essential to understand what NIL deals entail. NIL refers to the rights a person has to control and monetize their own name, image, and likeness for commercial purposes. These deals allow student-athletes to capitalize on their popularity and personal brand by entering into contracts with various brands, companies, or individuals who seek to utilize their image for promotional or marketing activities.

Tax Classification of NIL Income

The foremost tax consideration for student-athletes engaging in NIL deals revolves around the classification of income. There are two common classifications for this type of income:

  1. Self-Employment Income: Under the IRS guidelines, if the student-athlete actively participates in the endorsement or promotional activities, the income generated from NIL deals is often classified as self-employment income. This classification means that the athlete is effectively operating as a sole proprietor and is subject to self-employment tax.

  2. Scholarship Allocation Adjustment: If the NIL income is directly connected to the student-athlete's athletic scholarship, the institution may reduce the scholarship amount to accommodate the earned income. In such cases, the NIL income would not be subject to self-employment tax but may still be subject to federal income tax.

Deductible Business Expenses

Student-athletes who generate NIL income as self-employed individuals may also claim certain business expenses as deductions. These deductions can help offset the tax burden and maximize the athlete's net income. Common deductible expenses may include:

  • Marketing and advertising costs

  • Professional services fees (agents, accountants, managers, lawyers)

  • Travel expenses related to promotional events

  • Costs of maintaining and managing personal branding (website, social media, etc.)

Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments

As self-employed individuals, student-athletes must also be aware of their responsibility to make quarterly estimated tax payments. Unlike traditional employees who have taxes withheld from their paychecks, self-employed individuals are required to estimate their tax liability and make payments four times a year (April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year) to avoid penalties and interest.

State Tax Considerations

Tax implications can vary from state to state, so student-athletes should familiarize themselves with the tax laws in their respective states. Some states may not have state income tax, while others might impose additional taxes on self-employment income.

Seek Professional Guidance

Navigating the complex tax landscape can be overwhelming, especially for student-athletes focused on their sports careers and academics. To ensure compliance and maximize tax benefits, it is crucial for student-athletes to seek the expertise of a qualified tax professional. A knowledgeable tax advisor can provide tailored advice, assist in tracking deductible expenses, and ensure timely filing of tax returns.


The advent of NIL deals in the NCAA has revolutionized the college sports industry, offering student-athletes unprecedented opportunities to profit from their Name, Image, and Likeness. While the financial benefits are promising, understanding the tax implications is crucial for long-term financial success. As student-athletes embark on their entrepreneurial journeys, staying informed and seeking professional tax advice will empower them to make sound financial decisions and make the most of their NIL deals while excelling both on and off the field.

If you have any questions while navigating the tax implications related to NIL deals, drop a comment in the field below, and a member of our team will be right with you!

Here's to making money, and keeping that money!

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