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Home / David Ziemer / Sidestepping taxes

Sidestepping taxes

Taxes can make hypocrites of us all. Men who exaggerate their income when they meet women will plead penury to the IRS. Families who think their home is priceless will call it a dump to the tax assessor. The “buy local” crowd will buy cigarettes off the back of a truck that just arrived from Kentucky rather than the corner gas station because the cigarette tax is lower.

But this is really too much.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra claiming to the Tax Appeals Commission and the courts that it shouldn’t have to pay sales taxes, because its concerts are not entertainment, but are primarily educational.

Personally, I consider entertainment a service, not a product, and I think that only sales of products should be subject to a sales tax. I still remember my outrage the time back in law school when the transmission on my station wagon broke down in New Jersey, and for the first time, I had to pay sales tax on the mechanic’s services.

Anyway, there are many ways to measure when taxes are too high; as soon as you get to the right of the apex on the Laffer Curve is the most obvious (and the most often disregarded by legislators). Another is when a great symphony pleads that its own music is not entertaining to avoid them.


  1. This claim by the MSO is laughable. That a circuit judge agreed that MSO concerts were “educational” and not “entertainment” is also laughable. I hope she retires soon.

    It’s always large corporations and entities trying to game the system.

  2. I don’t think this claim by the Milwaukee Symphony is “laughable.” It makes sense to me that the Milwaukee Symphony would pursue this case given that most states do not charge sales tax for symphony orchestra concert tickets. Also, there are other arts organizations in WIsconsin whose tickets are not subject to sales tax (ie the Milwaukee Art Museum).

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