A visit from the Oklahoma Tax Commission during the Heard on Hurd street fest Saturday night in Edmond caught some vendors and musicians off guard.
According to a Facebook post from Americana duo Annie Oakley, OTC representatives in black windbreakers that said “AGENT” on the back were “demanding to see sales tax permits” from vendors and musicians at the event. From the post, which appeared Monday morning:
“We share all this to let you know that (1) apparently there’s a new push for compliance, and they’re pushing at local festivals. They hit all vendors–food, arts and crafts, and musicians. (2) in light of the considerable shortfalls in education funds, of course the logical move is to hit up small mom-and-pop businesses, artists and musicians. This is YOU, people who voted Mary Fallin into office. This administration is not winning prizes for championing creative, hard-working, normal people. Far from it.”
OTC agents ‘commonly’ at festivals
While Annie Oakley’s post characterized Saturday’s OTC inspections as “a new push for compliance,” the presence of OTC agents at festivals and other events like Heard on Hurd is “something that they commonly do,” according to OTC communications director Paula Ross.
“They go to almost all the festivals,” Ross said Monday during a phone interview.
With regard to the nature of agents’ encounters with vendors at Heard on Hurd, Ross was aware of at least one negative encounter.
“I do know this weekend that two of the agents reported that somebody who actually had a permit was belligerent to them, but that isn’t something that’s totally uncommon if you’ve got, you know, 100 vendors,” she said. “I don’t think it got out of hand too much.”
According to Ross, anyone experiencing a problem with an OTC field agent can contact the OTC to report the incident by phone. Alternatively, Ross suggested going through the event’s promoter as a means to voice concerns or complaints, as promoters generally act as a liaison between vendors and musicians at festivals and the OTC. In this case, the promoter for Heard on Hurd is V3 Alliance.
Artists contractually bound to collect taxes
Citizens Bank of Edmond organizes Heard on Hurd. In an artist contract provided to NonDoc via senior marketing officer Ann Chen, a clause under “Merchandise” stipulates: “ARTIST is responsible for selling ARTIST merchandise; ARTIST retains 100% of the income. ARTIST is responsible for paying Oklahoma State sales tax at 8.517%.”
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According to Chen, the presence of OTC agents is in line with other code-compliance inspections that come standard with running a large event.
“Our festival is routinely checked by all kinds of inspectors to make sure everyone is in compliance,” Chen said Monday. For example, she said food-safety inspections are a common aspect of festival management to ensure people won’t get sick from something they buy and eat at the event.
Still, an artist’s encounter with the tax man may catch some people off guard, and Chen said there was room for improvement in that regard.
“We’ll definitely do a better job of informing the artists as well that there is going to be that presence there,” she said.
The greater good
While some specific encounters with OTC agents at Saturday’s event in Edmond rubbed some people the wrong way, the collection of local sales tax remains an important aspect of a city hosting such events in the first place.
“If you sell products, then you’re supposed to collect [sales tax],” said the OTC’s Ross. “These big events, a lot of the time the cities, as well as for entertainment, do it to get money to help run the city.”
“Sales tax collected really helps the City of Edmond,” she said.
For musicians and artists concerned about meeting OTC compliance, Annie Oakley also provided a link to relevant information in their Facebook post.
At time of publication, the band had not replied to NonDoc’s questions via the social media site.