Entertainment Taxes Hurt Locals

No one has ever said that taxes are fun; but is it possible that taxes can be used specifically to fight fun?

I live in a small town about an hour away from Pittsburgh, one of my favorite places to go for entertainment. The only problem is that Pittsburgh has an ‘Amusement Tax’, also known as an ‘Entertainment Tax’. Yes, that’s right, the government will even tax you for going to see your favorite band.

The tax has been criticized by locals for turning popular performers away from Pittsburgh, but this argument has not had enough evidence to support it, as there are multiple reasons entertainers could be avoiding Pittsburgh. The subject that most supporters of the tax will not own up to, however, is the impact it has on local artists performing at small venues.

A February article in the Pittsburgh City Paper featured a quote from a local artist named Miguel Sague, where he said, “What [the tax] does is that it leaves us, in terms of making money, in a desperate situation.” You see, while many of the larger, more popular performers can easily pay the fees that go along with obtaining a permit, some of the smaller local artists cannot afford to do so. The law also states that each performance at each different venue must have its own special permit, so performers are forced to file for multiple permits and are hit with multiple fees.

The law also puts a burden on the venues that host the performers, as they are responsible for the collection of the taxes and the filings related to the taxes. If the venue does not meet the deadline in time, then additional fees and penalties are levied until they are able to file.

This tax has caused many local artists to drop clubs and other public venues from their gig schedules. Many artists have begun playing private events instead, which has, and will continue to, hurt the clubs and other venues that are subject to the taxes. It will harm the growth of small acts in Pittsburgh, which will cause its music scene (in particular) to continue to decline.

As I mentioned before, I live in a small town close to Pittsburgh called Butler. Here, my father is a local radio personality and a pioneer of the Grass Roots Show alongside his partner Utah Burgess.

His show features many small artists from Western Pennsylvania that come on to the show to play their music and participate in interviews; and I can only imagine what it would be like if the Pittsburgh law applied in Butler (where the local music scene is growing strongly). The vast majority of the bands that come on the show make their cut from playing in public venues, they’ve all gotten to where they are now by playing in these venues.

For a small town like Butler, which does not get the privilege of large popular performers, an entertainment tax will effectively put an end to the growth of the local music scene, as most of these performers will go to venues in different cities that are not subject to the stress of filing for permits, and paying the fees that go along with it.

This would also harm local businesses like Shady Lady Productions, which makes its revenue by helping the local music scene grow.

Aside from the effect the tax has on local music, the tax is also levied on all types of sports, recreation, amusement parks, fairgrounds, and the list does not stop there. How does one expect a community to grow if its experiences a drop in the activities of entertainment it can participate in? This is just another example of government creating problems that are unnecessary in the first place.

* Jeffrey Cupp is a native of Butler, Pennsylvania, and an undergraduate student at Slippery Rock University. He is currently studying economics and accounting at the School of Business.

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