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Circuit Court of Cook County Upholds City of Chicago’s Imposition of Amusement Tax on Internet-Based Streaming Services

On May 24, 2018, the Circuit Court of Cook County granted the City of Chicago’s Motion for Summary Judgment in the case captioned Labell v. City of Chicago, No. 15 CH 13399 (Ruling), affirming the City’s imposition of its amusement tax on internet-based streaming services. City’s Amusement Tax and Amusement Tax Ruling #5 The City imposes a 9 percent tax on “admission fees or other charges paid for the privilege to enter, to witness, to view or to participate in such amusement. …” Mun. Code of Chi., tit. 4, ch. 4-156 (Code), § 4-156-020(A); see also id. § 4-156-010 (defining “amusement” in part as a performance or show for entertainment purposes, an entertainment or recreational activity offered for public participation and paid television programming). On June 9, 2015, the City Department of Finance (Department) issued Amusement Tax Ruling #5, taking the position that the amusement tax is imposed “not only [on] charges paid for the privilege to witness, view...

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Chicago Mayor’s Tax-Heavy Budget Passes: Lease and Amusement Tax Implications

Last week the Chicago City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2016 revenue ordinance as part of his tax-laden budget proposal. The revenue ordinance included noteworthy changes to the personal property lease transaction tax (lease tax) and amusement tax, both of which we have covered in-depth since the Department of Finance (Department) issued two rulings over the summer officially extending a nine percent tax to most services provided online. The portions of the revenue ordinance related to the lease tax were drafted in response to the concerns raised by the startup community. As discussed in more detail below, the lease tax amendments provide little relief for the vast majority of businesses dreading the January 1st effective date of the ruling. The amendments to the amusement tax provide no relief whatsoever. Chicago Lease Tax Amendment The changes to the Lease Tax Ordinance include: (1) a narrowly defined exemption for small businesses; (2) a reduction...

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In Chicago, Taxing the Cloud Will Wait (Mostly) Until 2016

The City of Chicago has announced that it will be delaying the effective date for its recent ruling under the Personal Property Lease Transaction Tax until January 1, 2016. Personal Property Lease Transaction Tax Ruling #12 takes a broad view of how the 9 percent tax applies to cloud-based services. It was scheduled to come into effect on September 1, 2015, but after an outcry from the startup community, Chicago has pushed back the date on which it expects cloud-based providers to begin collecting and remitting tax. The additional time will allow the city to further consider potential exemptions for small businesses. Providers of information services, software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and some forms of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) that have nexus with the city will now have until January 1, 2016, to begin collecting the tax. (See a detailed discussion of Ruling #12 and its implications in a previous post.) The delay could...

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Chicago, Searching for Tax, Taxes Searchable Websites

Taxpayers providing services over the internet need to carefully consider two recent City of Chicago rulings: Lease Transaction Tax Ruling #12 and Amusement Tax Ruling #5. Issued together on June 9, 2015, the rulings extend a 9 percent tax to most services provided online. Charges for video streaming, audio streaming, computer game subscriptions, and other forms of online entertainment are subject to the 9 percent amusement tax. Charges for essentially any other kind of interactive website or online service, with only a handful of exceptions, are subject to the 9 percent lease transaction tax. The lease transaction tax is supposed to be a municipal sales and use tax on the leasing of tangible personal property, but the City is stretching the tax to encompass the deemed use of the provider’s computer in accessing a website or program over the internet. As detailed in this On the Subject, providers of information services and cloud-based services need to...

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More Tax Money for the City of Chicago in 2015: Broader Bases, Increased Rates and Lesser Credit

The City of Chicago’s (City’s) 2015 budget includes a number of changes to taxing ordinances found in titles 3 and 4 of the Chicago Municipal Code.  The City of Chicago Department of Finance has notified taxpayers and tax collectors of the amendments, effective January 1, 2015, via a notice posted on its website.  The text of the amendments can be found on the Office of the City Clerk’s website.  The amendments, designed to bolster the City’s coffers, affect multiple City taxes by enlarging tax bases, increasing tax rates and tightening credit mechanisms.  The amendments include: Hotel Accommodations Tax(Section 3-24-020(A)) The definition of “operator” (the tax collector) was amended to include: (1) any person that receives or collects consideration for the rental or lease of hotel accommodations; and (2) persons that facilitate the rental or lease of hotel accommodations for consideration, whether on-line, in person or otherwise. A definition of “gross...

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Bear Down: In a Preseason Loss to Cook County’s Poor Play, the 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), has  affirmed an administrative determination finding the Chicago Bears owe Cook County over $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...

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