No, Phil Mickelson Isn't Retiring Because His Taxes Are Too High

The Atlantic

Headlines blared over the weekend that golfer Phil Mickelson was considering giving up the sport that made him rich, because he feels besieged by higher tax rates. Don't worry: He's not quitting and he never really suggested he would.

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Breathless headlines and story copy repeated that the 42-year-old golfer "May Call It Quits" or "Talks Like Someone Ready to Step Away" and others wrung their hands over how he "hinted" and "suggested" that "possibly" he "may ... walk away from golf." Seems like a pretty extreme move for someone just because his tax rates bumped up a few percentage points.

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But what did he actually say?

"I'm going to have to make some drastic changes. I'm not going to jump the gun and do it right away, but I will be making some drastic changes."

In none of Mickelson's direct quotes that we could find does he use the words "quit," "retire," "hang it up," "throw in the towel," or any other variation on not working any more. Every one who said otherwise appears to have made the leap from "drastic changes" to "no longer playing golf," despite little evidence to support it. That's a pretty big leap too, since the response to losing money (even to taxes) is usually not "stop making money."

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He did admit that he walked away from a deal that would have would have made him a part owner of the San Diego Padres, because he's concerned about taxes. (Again, why you would give "all" money, because you might lose some money, escapes us.) "Drastic changes" would more likely mean a move out of state or (even more drasticly) out of the country and that could possibly help his tax situation. But he never honestly suggested he quit the sport that made him his millions in the first place.

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To prove it, Mickelson later apologized for his comments, clarifying that he's "as motivated as I've ever been to work on my game, to compete and to win championships." He also added that he won't talk about finances again, which is a good idea since he doesn't seem to know what he's doing.

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In his original statements, Mickelson complained that between federal and state income taxes, self-employment taxes, and a new California "millionaire's tax," he's paying close to 63 percent of his income in taxes. If that's the case, then that isn't a very good advertisement for one of Phil's biggest sponsors: the tax advisory firm, KPMG.

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