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Judge: Chicago Bears don’t owe county $4.1M in amusement tax

Cook County’s Revenue Department claimed thBears should have collected 3 percent amusement tax skybox amenities. A judge has ruled favor

Cook County’s Revenue Department claimed that the Bears should have collected a 3 percent amusement tax on skybox amenities. A judge has ruled in favor of the Bears. | Sun-Times file photo

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Updated: October 10, 2012 6:34AM

The Chicago Bears haven’t even played their first game of the regular season but they’ve already been tossed a victory.

Late last month, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Margaret Ann Brennan ruled the team wouldn’t have to fork over roughly $4 million in amusement taxes plus interest that the Cook County Revenue Department was seeking.

In what has become a protracted battle, the team has found itself on the defense since 2009, when revenue officials sent a bill stating the Bears owed millions in amusement taxes and interest from 2002 to 2007.

At issue is what should be taxed when fans pony up to watch the game from luxury suites or club seats at Soldier Field.

County officials argue that the Bears should be collecting the 3 percent amusement tax not just on ticket prices but also on amenities — such as food, beverages and parking — that are tied to the premium-seat tickets, court records show.

But the team has argued in court papers that the amusement tax ordinance says the taxes apply only to the cost of entering the stadium and watching the game — not the added benefits tied to those premium tickets.

An administrative law judge sided with the county initially, but the Bears appealed in Cook County Circuit Court. Judge Brennan sided with the team late last month.

“Examining the plain language of the Amusement Tax, the tax is to be applied to fees for ‘the privilege to enter, to witness or to view such an amusement’ and further sets out a significant list of activities considered ‘amusement’ under the tax, including football games,” Brennan wrote in her ruling.

A Bears spokesman couldn’t be reached for comment and the team’s attorneys declined to issue a statement.

Cook County is reviewing its options, including appealing the ruling, an official said Friday.

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