What is Burning Man? A festival? A temporary community? A lifestyle choice? Burners themselves are known to dodge the question: You know, it needs to be, like, experienced to be understood. Nevertheless, an answer will determine whether Burning Man must pay roughly $3 million in new state taxes.
In June, Nevada approved a 9 percent tax on admission to large-scale live entertainment events, even those held outdoors, which had been previously exempt. Burning Man drew nearly 66,000 attendees in 2015, but organizers maintain that the event isn't "live entertainment" at all. The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that the organization sent a letter to the Nevada Department of Taxation on Friday challenging the tax's application. Meanwhile, ticket prices for Burning Man 2016 are being delayed.
“Black Rock City is not an arena concert, a sporting event or a Las Vegas show," Burning Man organizers wrote in an online statement. "It’s a thriving metropolis with all the trappings of a functioning temporary city, with people camping, cooking meals, visiting neighbors, and exploring the offerings of its citizens."
Former assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who co-sponsored the bill sometimes known as the Burning Man Tax, disagrees. “It’s just a sign of the times. Entertainment has changed... There’s no way we could have predicted in 2003 that there would be an event like Burning Man. It’s disappointing that they take it so personal.”
Burning Man's growth has indeed been exponential, although it was already gaining ground in 2003. Organizers of the definitely-not-live-entertainment event feel like they're now seen as a "golden goose." But the non-profit Black Rock City LLC that is Burning Man isn't making money from performances at its "city of participants who gather to celebrate self-expression, gifting and community." In fact no one is. Burners just "happen to know how to throw a fantastic party for their friends. They conceive and build hundreds of interactive theme camps, art installations, mutant vehicles, costumes and performances, and they gift them for the benefit and enjoyment of each other."
Giving a pal a ride in your mutant vehicle: Now that's friendship.