The San Francisco 49ers are one of the rare sports teams that actually pay property taxes on their stadium — usually team owners get out of this by having the local government hold the deed on the place, but the 49ers owners contrived the world’s most convoluted lease-back deal instead — and now they’re going to be paying a little bit less, thanks to winning a property value reassessment that slashes the team’s annual tax bill in half:
The [Santa Clara school] district and agencies will have to pay the team a total of $36 million in refunds by June and figure out how to make do with $6 million less a year in tax revenue from then on…
“A 50% reduction for a single appeal is highly out of the ordinary. In my opinion, the AAB reached the wrong conclusion,” [County Assessor Larry] Stone wrote in a statement.
The tax dispute is a bit convoluted too, but apparently focuses on whether the 49ers owners the York family should be taxed on only half the value of their free use of public land (because they only control the stadium six months out of each year) or whether they should be taxed on the full value (because the six months they control the stadium includes football season, which is kind of the only time you want to operate a football stadium). The Santa Clara County Assessment Appeals Board ruled in favor of the Yorks, who will now get to cut their annual payments to the local school system by $6 million, which in present value comes to around $90 million worth of savings.
The backstory, of course, is that the Yorks built their new stadium back when the team was still good and fans weren’t afraid of broiling to death in the South Bay sunshine, and now significantly less people want to go see games there. Not that it really matters much — they already suckered fans into paying for most of the construction costs with personal seat licenses, and it’s not like they would likely be happily paying their tax bills if only the team were more successful. But it is a good reminder that when the going gets tough, the tough usually try to find a way to stick someone else with the bills.