Cartoon sales tax voted down by equalization board
CALIFORNIA–San Francisco cartoonist Paul Mavrides won an appeal in his fight against California’s attempt to apply sales tax to cartoons and comic strips in newspapers. The Board of Equalization, California’s tax appeals committee, voted 3-2 in favor of abolishing the disputed tax bill in early January.
As a result of the board’s decision, cartoons and comics will be exempt from sales tax laws as “literary manuscripts.”
The controversy over taxing cartoons and comics arose after state tax officials reinterpreted a 1930’s sales tax law. Although written manuscripts were held to be exempt from taxation, officials deemed comics and cartoons to be artistic expressions that are considered “personal tangible property,” which is taxable.
The reinterpretation also would have created a distinction between drawings considered “essential” to accompanying text, which would be taxed, and those drawings that were “incidental” to the text, which would not be. Cartoonists and syndicators statewide regarded this as an encroachment, according to one of the larger syndicates, and questioned who would judge each strip to make the distinction.
Publishers and legislators supported the appeals, contending that the tax policy amounted to a First Amendment violation and double taxation. (Media Counsel: Sanford Present, Los Angeles)