What Student Athletes Need to Know About Their NIL Income

An athlete who receives name, image and likeness (NIL) income is considered self-employed, which means they need to keep taxes and other issues in mind.

A football player with the number 97 on his jersey catches a football.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While professional sports can be extremely lucrative, student athletes can also clear quite a bit of income before they turn pro. In 2021, the NCAA established interim guidelines allowing student athletes to capitalize on income opportunities related to their name, image and likeness (NIL). Since then, quite a few student athletes are earning NIL income of more than $1 million per year. Talk about enterprising!

Indeed, that word, “enterprising,” is key for student athletes who obtain money from NIL opportunities, because it is taxed as self-employment income. Managing — and maximizing — the NIL income student athletes are allowed to earn, especially from a tax perspective, can feel daunting.

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Charles R. Johnson
Wealth Director, Fiduciary Trust International

Charles R. Johnson, Wealth Director at Fiduciary Trust International, is responsible for developing investment and trust relationships with families and organizations. He works closely with the Trust and Tax planning group to help clients determine optimal asset allocation and transfer strategies. Before joining Fiduciary Trust International, he worked for Rockefeller Capital Management, an independent financial services firm offering global family office, asset management and strategic advisory services to ultra-high-net-worth families, institutions and corporations.