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Lowlights of the City of New Orleans Amusement Tax Ordinance
Adopted by the City Council, Thur. April 16, 1998
Based on the 68 Year Old Amusement Tax Ordinance which formerly was collected only from music clubs with less than 1800 fixed seats, movie theaters and video rental stores. Previous exemptions included all public facilities, all nonprofits, "bona fide" jazz clubs in the French Quarter, and excursion boats. A lawsuit challenged the uneven implementation; and, the tax was declared unconstitutional and is under appeal to the State Supreme Court. This revised ordinance is an attempt by City Council to meet the letter of the law to help prevail in the appeal; however, the city attorney's office didn't do all their homework, because this revision does not accurately reflect the state mandated exemptions for the Superdome. Read on and try not to laugh too loud, because this really isn't very amusing.
Text from the tax:
"Admissions" includes all amounts paid for admission, season tickets, refreshments, service and merchandise...[and] any basic membership fee...
There is hereby levied a tax for the purpose of providing funds for public and quasipublic [sic] charitable institutions operated by the Department of Human Services [formerly called the Welfare Department] and, upon a surplus of such funds, to human services programs as determined by the council as authorized...The tax shall be two percent [2%] on gross receipts representing admission charges to any theatre, motion picture house, athletic contest, exhibition, pageant, production, demonstration, flower show, concert, musicale, recital, circus, freak show, minstrel show, lecture, address, nightclub, cabaret, dance, dancehall, restaurant which provides either floor show, singing, dancing or dancing facilities to patrons; excursion and sightseeing steamer which receives and discharges passengers in the same parish or municipality, aviation pleasure ride that takes on and discharges passengers in the same parish or municipality, scenic railway, flying horse or merry-go-round, shooting gallery and any game of skill and chance as well as all mechanical devices operated for pleasure or skill where a fee is charged for admission or entrance or for the purpose of playing them or whether there is any charge whatever for them or in connection with them either directly or indirectly or where admission is had by a season ticket or membership.
No tax shall be levied under this article with respect to any admissions:
1) to any event in held in the Louisiana Superdome**
**Note: this greatly expands the exemptions spelled out by state law. Previously, only events which utilized the fixed seats in the dome were exempt. Thus the council has further eroded its own arguments regarding taxation of the dome.
2) to any church fair, church card or lotto party, church lecture, church picnic, or any religious festival, all of the proceeds of which inure to the benefit of a religious institution.
3) to any charitable benefit, the proceeds of which inure exclusively to the benefit of charitable institutions.
4) charged the students or members of the faculty of any school or university which charges an admission fee in connection with the activities of the school or university.
5) or ten cents or less charged to children under the age of twelve.
*NOTE: These exemptions are basically those in the state enabling legislation that makes it possible for the city to collect the tax. As noted above, the author of the revised ordinance missed relevant details contained in the Superdome exemptions, and possibly other critical terminology. A case against this tax will be argued in the afternoon session of the Louisiana State Supreme Court on Monday, May 18, 1998.
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Louisiana Music Commission
3330 N. Causeway Blvd. Suite 438
Metairie LA 70002
Phone: 504-838-5600 Fax: 504-838-5280