November 13, 2006 in City

Critics pan city’s attempt to collect tax

By The Spokesman-Review

A Spokane city move to collect an estimated $32,000 in lost city admission tax each year is drawing fire from critics, who said the collections could hurt owners of smaller entertainment venues.

Treasurer Ellen Dolan has asked the City Council to approve an ordinance that would make owners and lessees jointly responsible along with event organizers to pay the city’s 5 percent admission tax.

A vote on the measure is scheduled for today’s council meeting at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. Public testimony will be taken prior to a vote.

Councilman Bob Apple said he has been hearing from operators of smaller venues, including at least one North Side church, who are concerned the tax would harm their ability to keep their facilities open to community events.

The tax is 5 percent of the admission price, usually included in the cost of a ticket.

Apple said the $32,000 that would be gained in tax collections could well be offset by additional expenses created in trying to enforce the measure.

“It’s wasting our time,” he said.

Dolan told council members last week that there is a fairness issue involved, and the city has a responsibility to treat all its taxpayers equally.

However, some event organizers have not been paying their admission tax bills, she said. The ordinance is an effort to get owners and lessees involved in ensuring that the tax is collected and paid, possibly by including the tax as a condition of rental contracts.

City officials are seeking to increase revenue collections to help stem nagging budget problems.

Carlton Oakes, executive director of the Spokane Masonic Center downtown, said he plans to testify against the measure.

He said it is the city’s job to collect the tax and should not be the responsibility of an organization that rents a facility.

He suggested that the city use its business license system as a way to enforce the admission tax.

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