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Published by Casey Seiler

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Published by: Casey Seiler on Oct 23, 2012
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=================================================================This memorandum is uncorrected and subject to revision beforepublication in the New York Reports.-----------------------------------------------------------------No. 157In the Matter of 677 New LoudonCorporation, &c.,Appellant,v.State of New York Tax AppealsTribunal et al.,Respondents.W. Andrew McCullough, for appellant.Robert M. Goldfarb, for respondents.CMSG Restaurant Group LLC, amicus curiae.MEMORANDUM:The judgment of the Appellate Division should beaffirmed, with costs.Petitioner, the operator of an adult "juice bar" inLatham, New York, contends that the admission charges and private- 1 -
- 2 -No. 157dance performance fees it collects from patrons are exempt fromstate sales and use taxes. We agree with the Appellate Divisionthat petitioner failed to meet its burden of proof that a taxexemption applies to those charges.To begin, New York State collects taxes from a widevariety of entertainment and amusement venues. In particular,the Tax Law imposes a sales tax on "[a]ny admission charge" inexcess of ten cents for the use of "any place of amusement in thestate" (Tax Law § 1105 [f] [1]). The Legislature expansivelydefined places of amusement that are subject to this tax toinclude "any place where any facilities for entertainment,amusement, or sports are provided" (Tax Law § 1101 [d] [10]).The tax, therefore, applies to a vast array of entertainmentincluding attendances at sporting events, such as baseball,basketball or football games, collegiate athletic events, stockcar races, carnivals and fairs, amusement parks, rodeos, zoos,horse shows, arcades, variety shows, magic performances, iceshows, aquatic events, and animal acts (see 20 NYCRR 527.10).Plainly, no specific type of recreation is singled out fortaxation.However, with the evident purpose of promoting culturaland artistic performances in local communities, the Legislaturecreated an exemption that excluded from taxation admissioncharges for a discrete form of entertainment - "dramatic ormusical arts performances" (Tax Law § 1105 [f] [1]). In this- 2 -
- 3 -No. 157case, petitioner claims, and the dissent agrees, that theLegislature intended to give the adult entertainment business atax break because the exotic stage and couch dances that arefeatured at the premises qualify as musical arts performances,rather than as more generalized amusement or entertainmentactivities that fall within the broad sweep of the tax. Wedisagree.It is well established that a taxpayer bears the burdenof proving any exemption from taxation (see Matter of Grace v NewYork State Tax Commn., 37 NY2d 193,195[1975]). "Furthermore, inconstruing a tax exemption statute, the well-settled rule is that'[i]f ambiguity or uncertainty occurs, all doubt must be resolvedagainst the exemption'" (Matter of Charter Dev. Co., L.L.C. vCity of Buffalo, 6 NY3d 578, 582 [2006]). This is so because "anexemption is not a matter of right, but is allowed only as amatter of legislative grace" (id.). Thus, a determination by theTax Appeals Tribunal that a taxpayer does not qualify for a taxexemption should not be disturbed "unless shown to be erroneous,arbitrary or capricious" (id. at 195-196).In order for petitioner to be entitled to the exclusionfor "dramatic or musical arts performances", it was required toprove that the fees constituted admission charges forperformances that were dance routines qualifying as choreographedperformances. Petitioner failed to meet this burden as itrelated to the fees collected for the performances in so-called- 3 -

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