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Burning Man 9 percent tax approved by Nevada lawmakers

Burning Man began as a bonfire on San Francisco's Baker Beach in 1986 where a handful of folks celebrated the summer solstice.

It's now a week-long festival that drew almost 66,000 revelers last year to Black Rock City, the temporary Nevada desert town that springs up in late summer to support the event.

Burning Man 2004 by Aaron Logan via Flickr
Burning Man photo by Aaron Morgan via Flickr

As the participation has increased, so has the price to be a part of Burning Man.

For this year's event, which runs from Aug. 30 through Sept. 7, top tier pre-sale tickets issued back in January cost $800 each. Remaining tickets now go for $390 apiece.

And soon, the Nevada Treasury will get a part of the money spent on the festival.

New entertainment tax: The Silver State has revised its live-entertainment tax, expanding its reach from cabaret performances to the increasingly popular festival market. Tickets to Burning Man and other gatherings, such as the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, soon will be subject to a 9 percent tax.

In its original version, Nevada's live entertainment tax was expected to generate about 4.3 percent of the state's $6.3 billion budget for 2015 to 2017. Analysts have not done the math on the revenue expected from the revised tax, but estimate that it should be similar.

Burning Man bean counters, however, have run the numbers. They say the new state tax will cost them $2.8 million. The festival reportedly is undecided as to whether to pass the tax on to festival goers.

"Burning Man participants contribute more than $40 million annually to the Nevada economy; they pay their fair share of sales and gas taxes, and they are tremendously supportive of local businesses," Jim Graham, a spokesman for the nonprofit Burning Man Project, told BloombergBusiness. "To single out a nonprofit for an estimated $2.8 million tax bill is short-sighted."

If you're heading to the Nevada desert this year, don't freak out. You won't have to pony up the added tax money. Once signed into law by the governor, the new tax won't take effect until Oct. 1, so budget accordingly for your 2016 desert sojourn.

The no-tax man's take? And there's one more Burning Man question that remains to be answered. Will committed anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist attend future, taxable conclaves at Black Rock City? 

Norquist made it to his first Burning Man visit last year and, judging from the piece he wrote for The Guardian, seemed to enjoy it.

But will the free-form art/music/whatever event lose some of its charm for the No Tax Pledge creator when it's just another taxable event?

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