Yet Another New Tax

Some time ago, the Vermont Tax Department notified the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts that it owes $190,000 for taxes on tickets from the past three years of ticket sales. That past due tax notice would be forgiven by a new bill just passed in Montpelier but the bill ensures collection going forward.

The Vermont House and Senate negotiating committee and the governor all signed off on “Challenges for Change” late last week. The bill includes a 6% sales tax on tickets to cultural institutions and performing arts events presented by non-profit cultural organizations like the All Arts Council or the Flynn. Organizations with admission revenue over $50,000 must collect this tax starting next year.

“The committee did it in the dark of the night at the end of the session,” State Senator Randy Brock (R-Franklin County) told me about the section of the bill meant to clarify the question of admissions taxes.

“The Senate took no testimony” on this, so it went forward unvetted. he said. That leaves the legislature with some unanswered questions.

The controversial efficiency bill has a lot to like. “Challenges for Change” is (relatively) small. It appears to save some money. It changes the way government does business. It is the first law ever passed that concentrates on outcomes.

Unfortunately, it is not the first time the legislature has snuck a new tax into an otherwise good bill.

Let the finger pointing begin.

“What we didn’t anticipate was that the bill would take away our ability to do things we could do before there was a Challenges bill,” Tom Evslin told the Times Argus. “That may be the largest problem.” Mr. Evslin is Vermont’s Chief Recovery Officer and the Douglas Administration’s Technology chief.

Gubernatorial candidate Peter Shumlin (D-Windham County) responded that the administration “might not understand the bill as well as they need to.”

Sorry, Mr. Shumlin. I think we understand the bill just fine.

The legislature took a pretty nice concept — the Challenges Bill specifies the broad areas for savings and identifies those outcomes state agencies and programs must achieve — and mucked it up with “oh my God, you can’t do that” restrictions. Then the legislature added new “revenue sources” like the tax on your concert tickets.

The downside to the new admission tax is two-fold. (1) Ticket prices at larger venues and events will rise which means ticket buyers will pay more. (2) Rather than cutting spending in times of reduced revenue, the House and Senate conference committee opted to create yet another new tax.

I live in the real world. I’ve had to tighten my belt, Mr. Shumlin. Part of the reason I had to tighten my belt is that you raised my taxes. Again.

5 thoughts on “Yet Another New Tax

  1. As much as I hold *The Arts* and the concept of “nonprofit” businesses in disdain, I hold in disdain even more the concept of *taxes*. Call me backward, call me crude and devoid of culture, call me unappreciataive of creative genius; or simply call me a conservative who hates taxes.

    And as much as I hate paying taxes, I hate even more the preferrential treatment of some entities who are exempt from paying them while I am not. I am speaking, of course, of *nonprofits*.

    You see, the name “nonprofit” is deliberately misleading — because most nonprofit organizations can make all the money they want without rendering tax to the IRS — however, this sneaky tax, as described by the blogmeister, is a typical liberal ploy by a government of that same stripe because it does not hit the nonprofit organization (hardly) at all.

    So, putting my *nonprofit* prejudice aside, I find myself agreeing with the blogmeister’s lament that a new and higher tax has certainly arisen where none of that magintude existed before. Such a tax will not directly hurt the precious nonprofit organization — except in a slight shortening of lines at the ticket office — but it will hurt the poor, misguided family man who wants to take his brood out for an evening of alleged culture.

    It’s still a tax, and I hate it.

    Little by little, government adds these snippets of theivery while thinking nobody notices nor cares — and perhaps few really do. But the blogmeister noticed it and so reported.

    I am reminded of a military friend who rented from a nice family on the German economy back in the 1950’s. The German Hausfrau bought a cart load of kindling and put it in her basement so she’d have something with which to start the morning fires.

    My friend would very quietly go down each morning and sneak a few pieces of it from various places…he thinking no one would ever notice. First from this place, and then from that place, and over there next time, and then back around to this place — and so on.

    One morning the Hausfrau went down and removed a few sticks, and the entire pile came crashing down around her. You see, because of my friend’s clandestine pilfering over the previous weeks, the stack had lost its integrity.

    The analogy applies to government’s constant addition of seemingly invisible taxes which absolutely unermine the integrity of the economy. It’s going to come crashing down.

    — George

  2. Of course, everyone I know (practically) has had to tighten their belts some. In a fat nation, that may or may not be a bad thing. Depends: have you reached a point of pain?

  3. I’m thinking the point is that if We the OverTaxed People are tightening our belts, the taxing authority needs to do likewise.

  4. Dick, this is the challenge facing the new New Jersey Governor, but in reverse circumstances. He wants to lower spending and cut taxes while the “tax and spend” liberals in his State want to maintain those two nonvirtues in ascending fashion.

    Reasonable New Jersians are fighting to save their State’s economy, and the others are fighting to hold their place in line to the handout window.

    — George

Comments are closed.