Admissions tax has a long, long reach

Ah, spring (in an odd-numbered year in Nevada), when a young lawmaker’s thoughts turn lightly to taxes.

The latest tax proposal coming out of the capital might be a rude surprise for those of you who like to, you know, do things. Everything from going to a concert to going to the gym would fall under the new levy.

I know what you’re thinking: How do I avoid getting taxed in Nevada?

My advice: Become a corporation.

The new Nevada Entertainment and Admissions Tax (yes, that does spell out NEAT, and yes, dear God, I do believe it was intentional) would impose an 8 percent levy on lots of stuff. Here’s the official explanation from the Legislative Counsel: “any place where amusement, sport, recreation or entertainment is provided, including, without limitation, theaters, shows, convention centers, exhibitions, exhibition halls, trade shows, athletic or sporting contests, races, facilities where live entertainment is provided and certain private clubs or membership clubs providing recreational or physical fitness facilities.”

That’s right: You’ve got to pay the Entertainment and Admissions Tax when you go to the gym! I’ve occasionally wandered into a gym, often because I mistook it for something else, and I can tell you: There is nothing entertaining about the gym. It’s uncomfortable, often painful, and a place I can’t wait to flee.

That makes me wonder: If President Obama ever decides to move the prison at Guantanamo Bay to the Nevada National Security Site, will inmates have to pay the admissions tax, too?

And the tax will be tacked onto green fees at golf courses, too. So I have to pay the tax on admissions to a facility where I’m entertaining myself? Well, myself and everybody in my foursome who gets to watch me try to get out of the sand and sink those elusive “longest yard” 3-foot putts.

I can see charging an admissions tax to a place where there’s real, live, professional entertainment, like a Tony Bennett concert, or the Rolling Stones, or those cacophonous banshees the young people like to listen to these days. But trade shows like the World of Concrete?

And then there are the Unanswered Questions.

For example, does this apply to indoor shooting ranges? I enjoy dropping by American Shooters Supply every now and again and plinking away at paper targets. I’m sure entertained, but does the tax apply to the lane rental?

What about businesses such as The Attic, the vintage clothing store that — before somebody blew up downtown — charged a $1 cover to get inside. Shopping for vintage clothing is certainly not my idea of entertainment, but would that buck now be $1.08?

Say I’m in my living room watching cable TV — do I have to pay if all I do is watch shows I’ve previously recorded? What if I accidentally catch a glimpse of a live program? Eight percent of my cable bill could be a big hit.

And I know they’re not really in fashion these days, but does anybody remember pay toilets?

Well, you get the idea.

I realize Nevada is in trouble — the state needs more money for schools, for mental health and for giving big tax breaks to struggling small businesses like Hollywood studios and Apple.

But is taxing movie theater tickets or a Las Vegas 51s game really the best way to go? Is anybody else disturbed by the fact that many of the large corporations that will collect this tax from regular folk still pay nothing on their incomes in Nevada?

I’ve written about the state’s struggles in this space many times, so it would be hypocritical of me to balk when it comes time to pay to fix them, so pay I will. I just wonder if my doctor will buy the excuse that I skipped the gym to avoid taxes.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.