Usually around this time of year, we’ve got Black Rock City ticket information for you, but this year is a bit different.
You may have heard that earlier this year the Nevada Legislature passed a law amending the state’s Live Entertainment Tax (“LET”). These amendments (SB266) levy a 9% tax on the admission charge to an event held in a facility where “live entertainment” is provided. More specifically, NRS 368A.200.3 requires that the tax “must be added to and collected from the purchaser at the time of purchase.” The tax now even applies to events produced by 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations — like Burning Man — if they sell at least 7,500 tickets to their event. SB266 can be found in its entirety here.
Notably, all boxing matches, NASCAR races, and professional and college sporting events when the Nevada-based home team is playing have been exempted from SB266, even though those events clearly constitute “live entertainment.”
Burning Man and its participants already contribute an estimated $50 million to the Northern Nevada economy every year, and Burners pay sales taxes, hotel/lodging taxes, and gas taxes. While we support Nevada’s right to collect fair taxes, we don’t believe the LET applies to Burning Man, and we intend to challenge it.
Black Rock City is an experiment in temporary community on 14,000 acres of the wide open Black Rock Desert. While the Burning Man organization provides the space and basic infrastructure for Black Rock City, we simply don’t provide live entertainment as defined by the statute. Black Rock City is not an arena concert, a sporting event or a Las Vegas show; it’s a thriving metropolis with all the trappings of a functioning temporary city, with people camping, cooking meals, visiting neighbors, and exploring the offerings of its citizens.
It’s a city of participants who gather to celebrate self-expression, gifting and community — and who happen to know how to throw a fantastic party for their friends. They conceive and build hundreds of interactive theme camps, art installations, mutant vehicles, costumes and performances, and they gift them for the benefit and enjoyment of each other.
It’s clear from this legislation the Burning Man event has been misunderstood. So, we are looking into the LET and trying to understand how it is meant to be applied. We’re also working to educate the Legislature so they understand what Burning Man is and how it works.
From our perspective, this is the latest attempt by an outside entity to unfairly tap the resources of Burning Man and its participants. Some seem to view Burning Man as the “golden goose” they can turn to when they want money for other projects. This happened most recently in 2014 with the Bureau of Land Management seeking money for VIP accommodations, but it’s been a trend for many years.
The tax may be unavoidable for 2016. We will know more as this process unfolds, but we’re not able to finalize 2016 ticket sales until we have more information. We know this may affect you and your campmates as you make plans for Black Rock City 2016, but we owe it to our community to fully understand our best path forward.
We will update you as soon as possible, and will have further details about 2016 ticket sales in the new year. Until then, you can get more information about the LET and SB266 from the Nevada Department of Taxation at (775) 684-2020 or from the bill’s sponsor, Nevada State Senator Mark Lipparelli at (775) 684-1475. If you wish to express your opinion please do so diplomatically, because — as one of its creators — you represent Burning Man, and we want the legislature to see our community in the best possible light.
Update on Nevada’s Live Entertainment Tax
On Friday, December 11 the Burning Man organization sent a letter to the Nevada Department of Taxation stating the reasons we believe Nevada’s live entertainment tax should not apply to our event. The state is required to respond within 45 days of receiving the letter and we are expecting a response from the Department of Taxation by the end of January. We had asked for a response by January 15, but the Department said it would likely take the full 45 days (perhaps even longer) to reply. In the meantime, we stand by our position that Burning Man should not be subject to the tax because we do not provide live entertainment as defined by the statute.
We’d also like to clarify that Burning Man does not contend that the Nevada Legislature intended the tax to apply to Burning Man. The language in the bill misses the mark so clearly and so completely that it is difficult to believe the Legislature would have drafted the statutes as they are written if they had intended to tax Burning Man. This is precisely why Burning Man has asked the Nevada Department of Taxation to determine that the tax does not apply to its activities, and eagerly awaits the Department’s response.
We know many of you are anxious for details regarding 2016 ticket sales. More information on the tax and on ticket sales will be available before the end of the month. Stay tuned!
Ticket Information Forthcoming
Thanks for your patience, everybody … we’ve been working out last minute details, and ticket information is coming this week.
Top image by Mark Turnauckas (Creative Commons license)