You'll Pay More For Burning Man Tickets if the Festival Doesn't Convince Nevada it's Not an Entertainment Event

Burning Man is an experience, not an entertainment event. At least that’s what festival organizers are telling the state of Nevada, which wants to tax the annual blowout in Black Rock City to the tune of $3 million.

As KQED reports, Nevada revised its live entertainment tax last year. Some nonprofits that were once exempt — including Burning Man Projects, the 501(c)(3) that oversees the raucous desert festival each year — suddenly find themselves shouldering heavy taxes that could mean hiking ticket prices. The tax “no longer applies to nonprofits who offer for sale 7,500 tickets or more and where the patrons participate in that entertainment and, ‘the number of tickets to the activity offered for sale or other distribution is 15,000 or more,’” according to KQED.

Burning Man appealed the tax, arguing that it would cost the festival nearly $3 million and force a $35 add-on to tickets that already retail for about $390. Since Burning Man isn’t live entertainment, but just a venue and infrastructure for such live entertainment to incidentally occur, the festival says it shouldn’t have to shell out.

[jump] As KQED notes, Burning Man was worth $9.6 million in 2014, with an annual attendance of around 66,000 people.  

This isn’t the first time that the festival has pushed back against bureaucratic buzzkills. This summer, Burners tangled with the Bureau of Land Management, which owns the land on which the impromptu Black Rock City rises every year. The BLM reportedly requested a special camp for high-ranking agency officials that included flush toilets, air conditioning, washers and dryers, refrigerators, couches, and vanity mirrors. Burning Man organizers said that constructing such a camp would cost about $1 million, bringing the event’s total permit fee to an unprecedented $5 million.

In addition, 2015’s festival also saw a new sheriff in town: former deputy Jerry Allen,who replaced Richard Machado as sheriff of Pershing County. Unlike his predecessor, who was lax on marijuana possession and nudity, and who patrolled the playa with retired officers instead of active-duty cops, Allen talked tough when it came to enforcing desert law.

Last year, Burners were prohibited from flying drones (exemptions for certain media and art events), throwing EDM parties lasting more than three hours, and playing with handheld lasers.

As far as this new tax standoff is concerned, the festival hopes to resolve matters soon.

“Burning Man has a very good record of working and collaborating with the state agencies, and federal and local agencies that permit the event,” Ray Allen of Burning Man Projects told KQED.

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