United States: Illinois Appellate Court Finds Chicago Bears Ticket Holder Amenities Taxable

The First District of the Illinois Appellate Court, in Chicago Bears Football Club v. Cook County Department of Revenue, 2014 IL App (1st) 122892 (Aug. 6, 2014), affirmed an administrative determination finding that the Chicago Bears owe Cook County more than $4.1 million in amusement tax and related interest, on the basis that the amenities and privileges enjoyed by Bears premium ticket holders are taxable admission charges.  The ordinance at issue imposes tax on "admission fees or other charges paid for the privilege to enter, to witness or to view such amusement" but excludes "any separately stated charges for non-amusement services or for sales of tangible personal property."  Cook County, Ill. Code of Ordinances, part I, ch. 74, art. X, § 74-392(a), (e).

The charges at issue include those for club-level seats, luxury suites and the Skyline Suite.  For club-level seats, the assigned seat location varies from the 50-yard line to the end zone.  On the face of the ticket, the charge for the seat and for the amenity license is separately stated.  The price of the seat is constant regardless of location, while the price of the license varies depending on the seat location.  Amenities provided to a club seat ticket holder include access to a "club lounge" for use before, during and after the game.  The lounge has buffet and bar areas (food and beverage not included in ticket price), better food selection than that available in the regular seating area, and high-definition televisions for viewing the Bears game in progress and other National Football League games.  A club-level ticket holder cannot view the entire field from the lounge.  Other amenities include rights to early ticket purchases for playoff games and non-Bears-game events at Soldier Field, special parking privileges, invitations to autograph sessions and merchandise giveaways, free game day programs and invitations to appreciation events year-round.

The luxury suites provide a private enclosed area for up to 20 guests.  Seating is not assigned.  Tickets list a single price.  Suite amenities include individual temperature controls, private bathrooms and high-definition televisions.  Food and beverage generally are not included in the ticket price.  Other available amenities include first option to use the suite for most non-Bears events at Soldier Field, travel arranged by the Bears for certain away games, invitations to non-football game day events, participation in game day drawings for special prizes, parking passes, special recognition in Bears publications and invitations to appreciation events year-round.

The Skyline Suite is an open area shared by multiple licensees and has non-assigned seating.  Food and beverage are included in the price.  Like luxury suite tickets, Skyline Suite tickets list a single price.  The same amenities available to luxury suite ticket holders are available to Skyline Suite ticket holders.

The appellate court affirmed the county's assessment, concluding tax is owed on 100 percent of the club seat ticket price and on 60 percent of the luxury suite and Skyline Suite licenses.  For club-level seats, the court reasoned that a person who wants to watch a game from a club seat cannot get to a seat without paying the privilege license fee, relying on its decision in Stasko v. City of Chicago, 2013 IL App (1st) 120265 (Sept. 30, 2013).  In Stasko, the court found taxable under the City of Chicago amusement tax (substantively similar to the county tax) permanent seat license fees that had to be paid before purchase of a season ticket for a specific seat location.

The court's analysis with respect to club-level seats is erroneous.  First, the Stasko decision does not apply, because the only benefit provided to a purchaser of a permanent seat license is the seat location.  In contrast, the purchaser of a club seat ticket gets the seat location plus the amenities.  If a person did not want the amenities, he or she would buy a regular seat ticket.  Second, the Bears met the "separately stated" requirement for non-amusement services.  As the dissenting opinion observed, even the county's auditor recognized that the Bears separately stated the price of the admission and the price of the amenities.  See 2014 IL App (1st) 122892, ¶¶ 48-49.  Third, the amenities enjoyed by club seat ticket holders are significant, and some are available even during the off season.  The fact that live play cannot be seen from the "club lounge" highlights the difference between the amenity privileges and the simple right to view the game.  Tactically speaking, the Bears could have improved their position by increasing the separately stated ticket price, rather than the license fee, based on quality of seat location.  But the court ignored this fact.

The court's analysis of luxury suites and the Skyline Suite withstands scrutiny.  The Bears did not come within the terms of the ordinance because they did not separately state the value of the seat from the value of the amenities.  The Bears introduced internal books and records showing the value of a seat, but the court found no basis to exclude any part of the luxury suite charge because the ordinance does not refer to internal records as evidence of the value of a seat.  Additionally, the county's auditing mistake allowed the Bears to reduce the tax base of luxury suites by 40 percent because the county believed that all luxury suites included food and beverage (not subject to amusement tax) when that was the case with the Skyline Suite only.  The county did not contest this mistake.  Even for the Skyline Suite license, a 40 percent discount is arbitrary, as argued by the dissent.  The auditor provided no explanation for this determination, suggesting, as the Bears pointed out, that the amount of the discount is based on a City of Chicago ordinance that bases the Chicago tax on 60 percent of the value of a skybox.  The Bears' appeal of the luxury suites and the Skyline Suite ruling is strategically suspect because a remand would have resulted in tax being owed on the full price of the luxury suites.

The county's administration of the tax is deplorable.  Given the amounts at stake, the ordinance should have been drafted with the club seat/luxury suite issue in mind.  That is how the City of Chicago drafted its ordinance.  Instead, the Bears were left to guess at how the county would impose the tax.  The auditor's suggestion that the club seat license could have been excluded had the Bears sought an agreement with the county—when the ordinance says nothing about requiring a taxpayer and the county to negotiate the tax base—shows that the administration was irrational.  The appellate court compounded the problem by effectively reading the exclusion for non-amusement services out of the tax for the club seats.  The Bears could not come within the separately stated requirement for the luxury suites and the Skyline suite without trying to state a separate price for the value of the seats and the food and beverage.  Such a separate statement could be a practical or business impossibility.  As the dissent found, the county made no effort to clarify how it would impose the tax.  The issue is entirely straightforward.  The county's position, leading to years of litigation, is unconscionable.  As with the recent debacle over its illegal Use Tax (Reed Smith LLP v. Ali, 2014 IL App (1st) 132646-U (Aug. 4, 2014)), Cook County's capricious use of its tax power tarnishes the Chicago area's attractiveness to business.

Illinois Appellate Court Finds Chicago Bears Ticket Holder Amenities Taxable

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions