Public financing, including tax-exempt bond financing, of facilities used by professional sport teams has long been a controversial topic, with advocates and opponents disagreeing over whether the benefits sufficiently to justify public subsidies.  Since 2000, over $3.2 billion of tax exempt bonds have been issued to finance the construction and renovation of 36 sports stadiums.

A bill has been introduced that would eliminate the availability of federal tax-exempt bonds for stadium financing.  Under existing tax law, use of a stadium by the applicable professional sports team constitutes “private use,” but taxable “private activity bond” status, which is triggered by “private use” of the financed facility combined with the presence of “private security or payment” for the applicable bonds, can be avoided by structuring the bonds to be payable from tax or other revenues unrelated to the financed stadium.

The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to treat bonds used to finance a “professional sports stadium” as automatically meeting the “private security or payment” test,  thus rendering any such bonds taxable irrespective of the source of payment.

This bill is identical to a version introduced in the House of Representatives in February and a slight departure from prior versions in the House that extended the exclusion from tax-exempt financing to a broader category of “entertainment” facilities.

What’s new this time? There are versions of legislation intended to terminate tax-exempt financing of professional sports stadiums in both the House and Senate, arguably evidencing an increased likelihood of advancement.

LinkedInTweetLikeLinkedInGoogle Plus
Photo of Meghan Burke Meghan Burke

Meghan is the head of the Public Finance Section and Chair of the Education Practice at the firm. She has extensive experience in public finance and public agency representation, serving as bond counsel and as counsel to underwriters, borrowers, trustees, and purchasers in connection with tax-exempt and taxable general obligation and revenue financings related to transportation, education, health care, economic development, project finance and environmental.

Photo of Poonam Patidar Poonam Patidar

Poonam Patidar is a Member in the firm’s Boston office. Her practice focuses on representing governmental clients and underwriters with respect to the issuance of tax-exempt and taxable financings related to transportation, higher education, health care, economic development, project finance, water, and wastewater. She also represents indenture trustees and institutional investors in workout and restructuring transactions, focusing in the area of high-yield securities. Poonam was named a Massachusetts Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for four consecutive years, from 2009 through 2012.