Sales Tax Slice: States to Make Killing at Holiday Box Office


Year-after-year, December is consistently one of the strongest months for box office sales. Evidently, there is something about an excess of fruitcake and Manischewitz wine shared with friends and kin that makes us crave the escape of the silver screen. Like most of us, I will be taking the opportunity to enjoy Episode VII of the Star Wars saga. If for no other reason, because it promises the return of Carrie Fisher

States too stand to benefit from Hollywood’s holiday offerings. A solid majority tax admission charges and once again holiday season movie tickets could be a big source of state revenue. Last year, December saw almost $1 Billion in box office sales. Add sales tax at the 8.875% rate applicable to ticket sales in Manhattan, and it’s easy to imagine state treasurers licking their chops over the revenue potential.         

Of course, not all states imposing a sales tax will be cashing in at the box office. For instance, when I view The Force Awakens in my home state of Maine, I will do so without paying any tax on my admissions charge. Maine voters defeated the legislature’s attempt to tax admissions by referendum in 2010.  

Those who choose to entertain themselves with live entertainment may similarly be able to do so without paying sales tax on their admissions fees, even in those states that tax admissions to movie theatres. For example, those attending New Year’s Eve at the Kennedy Center with Chaka Khan, will do so without paying sales tax. This is because the District exempts live concerts from its sales tax on admissions charges. Likewise, attendees of the Children’s Museum of Houston’s Kwanzaa Celebration later this month will not pay tax on their admission fees. Texas exempts admissions charged by nonprofit organizations. If instead of attending a holiday event at the Children’s Museum you opt to enjoy Krampus at AMC Studio 30, you can do so with the comfort of knowing that you’ll be paying an extra 8.25% to the state of Texas’ biggest nonprofit, the state itself. So if you didn’t dig deep this year for charity, don’t worry: you’re probably contributing to a good cause without even meaning to. Happy holidays everybody.      

Continue the discussion on Bloomberg BNA’s State Tax Group on LinkedIn: How many times will you watch Star Wars: Episode VII? 

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