Super Bowl vs. state of Michigan: A ball of confusion

In 2006, the city of Detroit hosted Super Bowl XL. Naturally, an event of that magnitude generated hefty expenses, including a payroll. More than four years after the big game, the state of Michigan has filed liens against the Super Bowl Host Committee, charging that the committee failed to pay payroll taxes, including withholding and unemployment insurance taxes, to the tune of nearly a quarter million dollars.

Here are the details:

  • On February 17, 2010, a lien was filed against the host committee for delinquent withholding taxes in the amount of $201,693.  According to the state, the liability is owed from May through December of 2007, January and February of 2008, and May through November of 2009.
  • In addition, the state filed a lien for delinquent unemployment insurance taxes in the amount of $42,338. The lien was filed June 30, 2008, and applies to October through December of 2006 and January through March of 2007.

What does the Super Bowl Committee have to say about that? Its answer is, "What taxes?"

Susan Sherer, executive director of the committee, has a certificate of tax clearance from the state showing a zero balance, dated August 5, 2009. Actually, that isn't quite accurate. The state of Michigan owes the committee money...a whopping seven cents. Even so, six months after issuing the clearance certificate, the state filed a new lien.

When The Detroit News inquired about the delinquent taxes, Sherer explained that the committee has not been operational since late 2006, a few months following the Super Bowl game. She suspects that the state must have mistakenly assumed the committee continued to operate and, therefore, incur payroll taxes.

Until alerted by reporters, Sherer and the committee were unaware that a new lien had been filed on a case that was believed closed. "I guarantee we do not owe taxes," she told them, indicating there was no story to tell.  "Absolutely and emphatically, no way possible." 

Once she learned about the liens, she contacted state officials and has been assured that no taxes are owed and the balance should be cleared quickly.

"The state of Michigan has sent documentation on the release of the lien," Sherer told AccountingWEB. "I doubt it has made its way to Wayne County," where the city of Detroit is located.

"It has been a frustrating journey," she said. "I was disappointed The [Detroit] News felt the need to print the story when clearly we did not owe taxes after August 2009."

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