Georgia and Florida give entertainment a boost by exempting certain admissions
Live performances and other types of entertainment are emerging from the extended intermission imposed by COVID-19. To give businesses in the industry a boost, at least two states are providing a temporary sales tax exemption for certain admission charges: Georgia and Florida.
Georgia provides 18-month exemption period
Sales of fees, tickets, or charges for admission to certain exhibitions or fine arts performances will be exempt from Georgia sales tax from July 1, 2021, through December 31, 2022. But not just any exhibition or performance qualifies: The exemption applies only to admissions to fine arts performances or exhibitions performed or exhibited by, or within, the following:
- A facility owned by a tax-exempt organization (under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code); or
- A museum of cultural significance so long as the primary mission of the organization or museum is to “advance the arts in this state and to provide arts, educational, and culturally significant programming and exhibits for the benefit and enrichment of the citizens of this state.”
The exemption for certain admissions was established by the Georgia Economic Recovery Act of 2021 (part 5 of Senate Bill 6). It applies to state sales tax only — neither the bill nor Georgia Department of Revenue Policy Bulletin SUT-2017-07 reference local sales taxes.
Both the measure and the policy bulletin are light on other details, as well. For example, neither specify whether the exemption applies to performances occurring after the December 31, 2022, sunset date. However, it seems any qualifying ticket sold between July 1, 2021, and December 31, 2022, will be exempt.
Not all art is fine art
The “fine arts” umbrella is broad but doesn’t cover everything. The exemption applies to admissions to the following categories:
- Ballet or dance
- Ceramics, drawings, paintings, or watercolors
- Dramatic arts or theater
- Graphics or photography
- Music performed by a symphony orchestra
Thus, sales tax will likely apply to tickets to the September 2022 Alicia Keys concert at Cadence Bank Amphitheatre. Tickets to The Weeknd concert at State Farm Arena, in April 2022, will likely also be taxable. It’s doubtful either of these would fall under “music performed by a symphony orchestra.”
This isn’t the first time Georgia has exempted admissions to certain fine arts performances
The exemption for sales of tickets, fees, or charges for admission to a fine arts performance or exhibition conducted by or within a facility owned by a tax-exempt organization or a museum of cultural significance should be familiar to residents of the Peach State. Georgia provided this very exemption from April 25, 2017, through June 30, 2020 (download this pdf for details).
Florida exempts admissions during Freedom Week
Admissions to certain events occurring between July 1 and December 31, 2021, are exempt from Florida sales tax, but only if the tickets are purchased between July 1 and July 7, 2021. The following types of admissions qualify for the exemption: cultural events, movies, museums, music, sporting events, and more. Additional details can be found here.
Some states generally tax admissions; some don’t
Not all states tax sales of admissions, and some tax some admissions but not others. For example:
Fees charged for the use of amusement parks, theaters, sports events, golf courses, etc., aren’t subject to California sales and use tax because, as the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration explains, “there is no exchange of tangible personal property.”
Instead of sales and use tax, Connecticut generally imposes a separate admissions tax (10%) on admission charges to any place of amusement, entertainment, or recreation. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Ball parks
- Bathing beaches
- Motion picture shows
There are certain exceptions to this rule. For example, the tax doesn’t apply to any admission charge of less than $1, or to charges for a motion picture show costing $5 or less (if that exists). And while admissions to amusement parks are taxable, charges for carnival or amusement rides are exempt.
New Jersey sales and use tax applies to “any admission charge to or for the use of any place of amusement in New Jersey or to any entertainment event or sporting activity” in the state. This includes dramatic and musical arts performances, movies, and sporting events. Admissions for activities a patron participates in, such as health clubs or tennis clubs, are generally exempt, though associated charges (e.g., the rental of equipment) may still be taxable.
The New Jersey Division of Taxation acknowledges that it can be difficult to identify a “place of amusement,” for the purposes of the exemption. Qualifying places of amusement generally include “any privately or publicly owned and operated place within New Jersey where facilities for entertainment, amusement, or sports are provided, such as a theater, stadium, museum, arena, racetrack, or other place where performances, concerts, exhibits, games, contests, or other activities are held, and for which an entry fee is charged.”
On the other hand, admissions to an indoor playhouse would be taxable because the facility is used for play, not a sporting activity; it’s a subtle but significant distinction.
Admission charges to or for the use of places of amusement in the state of New York are generally taxable. This includes charges to enter or use beaches, fairs, museums, and sports events. However, admission charges to sales tax exempt organizations are exempt, as are admissions to the following:
- Live dramatic, choreographic, or musical arts performances
- Motion picture theaters
- Sporting facilities when the patron is a participant (e.g., bowling, golf, or swimming)
Amusement services are generally taxable in Texas. These include live and recorded performances (e.g., concerts, movies), exhibitions and displays (e.g., antique shows, museums), and sporting events.
Keep an eye out for changing tax policy
It may not be necessary for states to temporarily exempt admissions, as Florida and Georgia are doing. After a lengthy intermission from most cultural, entertainment, and sporting events, people are hungry to consume arts and entertainment in all its forms. And for those still worried about COVID-19 transmission, a sales tax exemption is unlikely to make a difference.
Nonetheless, since such exemptions support businesses particularly hard hit by the pandemic, other states could follow Florida or Georgia’s lead. If they do, we’ll let you know on the Avalara blog.
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