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Monday, July 1, 2013
Will taxes factor into Dwight's decision?

By Darren Rovell

As Dwight Howard explores free agency, it's likely the center will keep an eye on where he plays and lives for tax purposes.

Howard currently has a home in Orlando, Fla., which he paid $7.8 million for in 2009, and resided at another home, which it is believed he leased in Bel Air, Calif., during this past season with the Lakers.

If he claims California as his primary residence and stays with the Lakers, Howard will gross $118 million off a five-year max contract, but will net only $59.6 million, according to Robert Raiola, a certified public accountant with FMRTL in Cranford, N.J., whose clients include athletes.

That's because California has the highest state income tax in the U.S. Any person who is single -- Howard is not married -- earning more than $1 million in the state pays a top rate tax of 13.3 percent.

Howard could get only a four-year max deal by going somewhere else and would make $1.7 million less per season, but could still come out on top if he signs with the Houston Rockets or Dallas Mavericks and makes his home in Texas, a state that has no income tax.

Over a four-year period, Howard would gross $94.4 million off a contract with the Lakers and $87.6 million from a contract with an NBA team in Texas, but Raiola says the difference in the state income tax between California and Texas would result in Howard netting $2.6 million more from a Texas-based team. That's even including jock taxes, which are the taxes Howard would have to pay states when he plays on the road.

"If Dwight signs with the Lakers, it would be ideal if he could play in California but not be a resident in the state," Raiola said.

But that's not exactly the easiest thing to do.

California was the first state that began collecting taxes from out-of-town athletes who played in the state in 1991, and is more aggressive than most in collecting its money.

Although Howard still has the home in Longwood, Fla., a suburb of Orlando, current property appraisal records show he only applied for homestead in 2010, which meant he claimed it as his primary residence and got a tax break for it since Florida also has no state income tax. An official with the Seminole County property appraiser's office told ESPN.com that Howard did not technically claim the home as his primary residence in 2011, 2012 or 2013, meaning he wouldn't get the tax break in Florida for those years.

If Howard elects to live in California and play with the Lakers, he will gross $30.4 million more versus taking a free-agent offer in Houston or Dallas, but will net only $9.3 million more if he plays for the Lakers and is a California resident, Raiola said.