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Tampa Bay Rays sue state over disputed taxes

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays have sued the Florida Department of Revenue over a dispute about alleged unpaid taxes.

In 2011, a department audit determined the baseball team had underpaid state sales tax by $1.3 million between 2006 and 2009.

The department identified nine areas in which it said the team had underpaid. The team agreed with six elements of the state's demands and paid an unspecified amount of the owed money.

It protested the other three. The department eventually relented on one but still insisted the Rays owed sales tax on money the team paid to the city of St. Petersburg and on prepared meals it purchased from a vendor, Centerplate, for suite renters.

The lawsuit, filed on June 12, alleges that the money paid to the city came from its share of ticket sales and was not subject to the sales tax. The department had asserted the payments were for "rent" owed on Tropicana Field. Although the team does pay rent to the city under the agreement, the team had already paid tax on that money, according to the lawsuit.

Also, the Rays alleged that Centerplate's invoices did not separately state a sales tax because the vendor had agreed to include the tax in the total bill, which meant the company — not the team — was responsible for the tax.

It remains unclear how much of the $1.3 million is being contested.

A spokeswoman with the department declined to comment.

Attorneys at Holland & Knight, the Tampa firm that filed the suit, did not immediately return a message left at the office Friday afternoon.

Centerplate also did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Times researchers Natalie A. Watson and Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Rays sue state over disputed taxes 06/21/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 9:43pm]
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