City cracks down on entertainment tax

Published 9:35 pm Thursday, February 2, 2017

Nonprofit agencies in Selma will now have to collect an amusement tax when charging admission to events.

Selma City Council President Corey Bowie said Thursday night after a meeting between several nonprofits and the city’s contracted tax collector, Revenue Discovery Systems, that the amusement tax is nothing new.

“That’s not an additional tax. It’s just something that was on the books that currently wasn’t enforced,” Bowie said. “But through educational pieces like tonight and the workshops that we’re going to be doing, hopefully we can come on one accord and work together.”

Email newsletter signup

According to the Alabama Department of Revenue’s website, the amusement tax would be a total of 10 percent, with 4.5 percent of it going to the city, 1.5 percent going to the county and four percent going to the state.

Elise Blackwell, who once coordinated Market Day on Water Avenue, was very vocal during the meeting. Market Day is no more, but she voiced concern for other events that could go under.

“To make money from the various events that are being held, the city is going to be forcing those events to close,” she said. “There won’t be a reason to have them.”

Blackwell said Market Day was once the biggest craft show in Southeast Alabama until its demise. She said the event was forced to close after the city started charging vendors that sold crafts.

She just hopes the city’s effort to enforce the tax doesn’t cause other events to go extinct.

“I wish the city would have more vision and realize that all of these events were already benefitting the city in smaller ways from the taxes of the businesses that are benefitting from the visitors,” she said.

Bowie acknowledged the amusement tax may not have been enforced as well as it should have, but he said this is an effort to right the ship.

“We’re at a blank slate now, but what we’re doing now is just moving forward, putting in policies and procedures and trying to follow the process herein,” Bowie said. “When we are generating revenues we both win as a city, so the ultimate goal behind this is working together with the nonprofits and also the businesses because when you have additional revenue that’s coming in, it provides for public safety and public works to clean up.”

Christy Cato, a representative of RDS, said the company will be working with nonprofits to make sure they know what taxes need to be collected.

Cato spoke specifically about the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. She said the company would be acquiring a list of registered vendors that are planning on coming to Selma for the event and making sure they understand what taxes they are required to collect and pay.

Bowie said the city and Chamber of Commerce are planning a two-day workshop for nonprofits to make sure everyone is on the same page.

During the meeting, councilwoman Angela Benjamin pointed out that the city is owed an estimated $1 million in sales tax from businesses.

“That’s where people have taken the money from the consumer, but they’re not giving it back to the city,” Benjamin said. “Now, therein lies the problem.”