With a band playing at the Pokonobe Lodge Sunday, the non-profit Eastern Sierra Music Society got in a tangle with the Mammoth Town Finance Department over business taxes. Tom Gault and his band Flashback, were set to play retro rock and roll for guests at the Pokonobe, when the Music Society received a phone from Town officials saying that the band couldnt play without a business license.
Stephanie Everson explained the non-profit Music Society asked the band to play and hired out the Pokonobe for the venue. Everson said the band doesnt make much money as is, but they did agree to play for free. Despite the threats, the band did play and the concert was a go. Everson says that she thought Town staff was being hard nosed.
Mammoth Finance Director Brad Koehn explained that any entity that conducts business in Mammoth has to have a business tax certificate. While musicians, especially local musicians, generally dont make much money at all, Koehn says that if there is any compensation, whether money or food, beer or whatever, the band or other entity is a business and needs to have the tax certificate.
Usually a band qualifies for the lowest tax bracket. Koehn explained that if a musician or band makes under $25,000 a year, the tax certificate costs $50. While $25,000 is the upper limit on the low bracket, there is no lower limit. If an entity advertises, but doesnt end up making any money, Koehn explained that its still a business and subject to the license requirement. Of the $17 million Town Budget, the business tax usually adds up to about $350,000 a year.
Enforcement of this requirement is spotty. Koehn says that the town doesnt go around closing businesses or stopping bands. He explained that town staff responds to reports from other businesses. In the case of the Pokonobe, Koehn confirmed that his office did receive a report and followed up on it.
With other musical acts and artists in town or travelling to town for events like the Jazz Jubilee, Everson said that she thought the request for a business license sends the wrong message, to other artistic acts in Mammoth. She was worried that this recent tussle over the band would set a bad precedent.