Lawmakers make first steps toward reworking exemption-riddled live entertainment tax

Government And Institutions Associated Press

Nevada lawmakers took the first step Friday toward reworking a live entertainment tax that many complain is confusing, riddled exemptions and out of step with current trends in entertainment.

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The Senate Revenue Committee heard an educational presentation Friday afternoon on the tax, which generally applies to concerts, shows and sporting events but includes a lengthy list of exemptions: boxing matches, NASCAR races, minor league baseball games and certain outdoor concerts.

"It's not consistent," said Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, who has been trying to change the tax for years and was one of the presenters Friday. "Some people are exempt, some people pay it. The law is very convoluted in terms of interpretation."

Taxation department officials said the tax used to be broader but it has been whittled down by politically negotiated exemptions.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said there's wide support for simplifying the tax structure, but a bill stalled last session because it was brought up late in the session and had flaws.

"Last session was frustrating because of the timing. We were hearing a bill that wasn't going to pass," the Reno Republican said.

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This year's discussion started the first week of the session, and Kirkpatrick said she has worked out some kinks in the previous proposal. For example, there's agreement that movies, gyms and yoga studios shouldn't have to pay the tax.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson said the Friday talk is likely to lead to a bill sometime in the session. Gov. Brian Sandoval did not include changes to the tax in his budget proposal, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be one of the funding mechanisms for his spending plan.

"The governor and I talk regularly, and we both agree it's great to vet all tax ideas out there," Roberson said, adding that the sales tax and a potential services tax would be considered Tuesday. "Ultimately, the Legislature has got to find consensus on a revenue reform package that's going to fund the governor's budget."

Kirkpatrick said the advantage of the live entertainment tax is that it targets spending on luxuries and typically hits tourists.

"It really is about someone having the extra discretionary dollars to spend," she said. "If you can spend $800 on a festival ticket, another $10 ain't gonna hurt you. If you can spend $1,000 at the nightclub, what's $20 more?"