August is here, and golf season is in full swing. Duffers are filling the air with curses as colorful as their outfits. Tiger Woods is taking a break from romancing pancake-house waitresses to work on his game. And Phil Mickelson is the latest man of the hour. Earlier this month, he took a one-hole playoff to win the Scottish Open at Inverness. Just one week later, he posted a 3-under 281 to take the British Open at Muirfield. Mickelson’s £1,445,000 in winnings translates into almost 2.2 million in U.S. dollars.

So, he’s got that going for him, which is nice. But how much will he actually get to keep?

Mickelson has already told the world how he feels about paying taxes. Back in January, he said he might leave his home state of California because of recent hikes in federal and state taxes. These include 39.6% for Uncle Sam (up from 36%), 3.8% for Medicare (up from 2.9%), and 12.3% for the Golden State (up from 9.3%). “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’s 62, 63 percent,” he was quoted as saying in Yahoo Sports. “So I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.” Mickelson’s remarks landed him some deep rough, and he wound up comparing them to a botched drive that cost him the 2006 U.S. Open.

But Phil’s U.S. taxes may look pretty reasonable when you consider what he’ll pay on his recent Scottish winnings:

  • For starters, he’ll pay the United Kingdom a wee bit over 44% on his tournament purses.
  • The U.K. will take a divot out of any bonuses he receives for winning those tournaments. Plus they’ll take a chip of the bonuses he gets at the end of the year for his overall tour ranking.
  • It gets even better from there. The U.K. won’t just tax Mickelson on his tournament winnings. It also taxes him on part of his endorsement income for the two weeks he spent in-country. Forbes estimates he earned $44 million from Callaway, Barclay’s, KPMG, Exxon Mobil, Rolex, and others last year, so that extra endorsement tax may leave him wanting a mulligan.
  • He’ll get a credit against his U.S. tax for everything he pays abroad. But there’s no credit for the extra Medicare tax he’ll pay. And don’t forget, California takes a penalty stroke, too.

All in all, Mickelson will pay about 61% tax on his British earnings. That’s after his considerable expenses, including travel, meals, agent fees on endorsement income, and 10% to his caddy.

We realize that keeping $800,000 or so for a couple of week’s work isn’t bad – especially when that “work” involves playing two of the most storied courses in all of golf. Still, Mickelson’s story emphasizes that it really is what you keep that counts.

If you’re a golfer, you’ve certainly heard the saying “drive for show, putt for dough.” Well, our proactive planning service is the tax equivalent of putting for dough. That’s because top-line revenue is impressive – but if your short game isn’t up to par, those big drives may not actually matter. If you don’t have a plan, call us for help sinking that long putt across the IRS green. And remember, we’re here for the rest of your foursome, too!

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