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Supreme Court to consider Reds bobbleheads case next week

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments June 13 on whether you should pay sales tax on that Joey Votto bobblehead.

The case — Cincinnati Reds v. Testa — is one of five cases the Supreme Court will hear in two days of oral arguments June 12 and 13. Oral arguments begin at 9 a.m. at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. All arguments are streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live and archived on the Ohio Channel, said CourtNewsOhio.com.

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At issue is a dispute over promotions offered by the Reds to ticket buyers — including bobblehead figures and other items, meant to get fans in seats at Great American Ballpark.

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Attorneys for the Reds say they don’t have to pay tax on the purchase of these sorts of items because they essentially are already part of the cost of a fan’s ticket package.

Ohio law exempts companies from paying tax on items they buy to resell.

However, there’s disagreement on that. The Ohio tax commissioner has said the promotional items should be taxed because the Reds bought the items as giveaways and they aren’t selling them with tickets.

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As CourtNewsOhio.com reported, the Ohio Department of Taxation audited the Reds for purchases the club made from 2008 through 2010. The Ohio tax commissioner determined that the Reds owed about $88,000 in “use tax” for the promotional items they bought from vendors, even though the team intended to give away the items at the games. The department is seeking a penalty and interest for the non-payment of the tax.

In the Reds appealed the decision to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals, arguing that the promotional items are advertised as “free” to potential ticket buyers, but that the actual cost of the items are factored into the ticket price, the CourtNews site said.

But the board ruled that because the price of a ticket for a game with a promotional item is the same as the price for a game without including the item, the Reds were not reselling the items.

The Reds appealed the board’s decision to the Supreme Court, which will hear oral argument in the case.

Other states have wrestled with this issue.

Forbes magazine says the Milwaukee Brewers argued a similar case before the Supreme Court of Wisconsin and lost So did the Minnesota Twins.

However, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled for the Kansas City Royals that “though the promotional items are ostensibly given away, the cost of purchasing those items is factored into the price charged for each ticket of admission to a Royals game,” Forbes said.

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