Sales Tax Slice: Are You Ready for Some Football? How About Some Sales Tax?


Tis the season everyone. And no, I am not referring to the holiday season; I am referring to arguably the greatest American sport season EVER… football season. Last Thursday the NFL officially kicked off its regular season. As a loyal New York Giants fan, it was exciting to watch the team win their season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. 

For many football fans celebrating these victories, showing support for their team of choice means sporting their favorite player’s jersey, chowing down on pizza and wings and guzzling copious amount of beer. Some lucky fans may even have a chance to attend the game where they will be free to unleash fanmania and show support by shouting and cheering from the stands (No defense cry goes unheard).

For millions of football fans, these expressions of love and loyalty come with a taxable price tag.  According to CNN Money, during last year’s football season New England Patriots fans’ adoration for Tom Brady generated sales exceeding $20 million for jerseys, bobbleheads, beer sleeves and socks. These items are taxable in most states. For example, in Arizona, California, Washington D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin, retail sales tax is imposed on sales of clothing, including sports paraphernalia. You may be in luck, however, if you make your jersey purchases in New Jersey (of Giants jerseys, not Brady-ware, of course) where sales of clothing and footwear for human use are exempt from tax. Touchdown!

That said, fans may be a few kicks short of a field goal when it comes to food purchases. In the next few months, die-hard sports fans consumed by the NFL Sunday ticket and the management of their fantasy sport teams will have little time to step away from the action to prepare food on game day. Instead, they will likely order typical game-day munchies such as wings, pizza and sub sandwiches on which they will probably pay sales taxes—that’s because food items prepared for immediate consumption are taxed in most states. Washington, D.C. explicitly provides that sandwiches suitable for immediate consumption, party platters and foods served by restaurants or carryout shops are taxable. In Wisconsin, on the other hand, the same game-day goodies might escape the classification of taxable prepared food if they are sold without eating utensils. 

The taxing possibilities certainly don’t end with team logo apparel, bobbleheads and pizza. The ice-cold beer following that warm, cheesy slice is taxable too. Many states impose a retail sales tax on sales of alcohol, and in states like Maryland, purchases of alcohol are subject to a higher rate of tax. And fans who get to experience the fun in person can expect to pay tax not only on food and drinks, but on the admission fees, too. Tennessee, for instance, provides that admissions to sporting events are subject to retail sales tax.

For most football fans, the season always brings about a welcome opportunity to enjoy some “friendly competition” with friends, family and co-workers. Although there hardly seems to be an aspect of participating in football festivities that isn’t taxable, sales taxes are not likely to hinder football fanatics. Considering merchandise sales have reportedly been on the rise, according to Forbes, its likely taxes are not much more than a fleeting thought. By the way, “Go Giants!”

Continue the discussion on Bloomberg BNA’s State Tax Group on LinkedIn: Do you think the sales taxes impact participation in football or other sport celebrations?

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