Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Kansas City Ponders Taxing Earnings of Visitors

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Kansas City Ponders Taxing Earnings of Visitors

Article excerpt

KANSAS CITY _ If Kansas City officials have their way, Texas Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan will pay city taxes this year even though he doesn't live here.

So will magician David Copperfield, the touring troupe of "Les Miserables" and untold rock stars, doctors, violinists, lawyers, lecturers and other out-of-towners who pass through and make a few bucks while they're here.

The law says anyone who earns money within the Kansas City limits owes 1 percent of it to City Hall. Residents pay it, as do people who live in the suburbs but work in the city.

Now the city, scrambling for legitimate revenue wherever it can find it, is poised to start holding the collection plate out to visitors.

"We should be doing all we can to make sure that people are paying what is due, and that applies to residents and non-residents alike," said Kansas City Commissioner of Revenue Dan Walstrom. "That obviously increases the tax base without having to increase the tax rate."

It's not an alien concept. Cleveland has a team of field auditors who go to entertainment events to make sure promoters don't leave town without paying that city's 2 percent tax. And the city doesn't take checks.

Philadelphia last year hired a lawyer on commission to enforce its 4.3 percent tax by sending back-tax notices to 4,500 professional athletes who played in the city.

"The city of Philadelphia is in such dire straits, they're going after everybody," said Doyle Pryor, assistant general council of the Major League Baseball Players Association. "City contractors, lawyers, doctors, accountants. Just everybody. The big splash is pro athletes. That got them a lot of publicity."

Perhaps surprisingly, New York _ where notables are always in town _ does not attempt to collect its city earnings tax from out-of-towners.

"Be quiet about it or they'll want to start," said New York City Associate Tax Auditor Joseph Quirk.

And that's exactly what Kansas City Manager Dave Olson wants to do. He proposed the idea this month in his 1993-94 municipal budget.

It wouldn't plug many holes in the $595 million budget, but it would help. Walstrom estimates that enforcing the tax just on visiting baseball and football teams would generate about $150,000 a year.

"Right now, we're intently looking at it," said Kansas City Finance Director Verlyn Leiker. "While we have some (collection) options we're interested in pursuing, we've not yet decided which alternative would be best. We think we're close enough in all of this that we can recommend something to the council in the very near future."

Walstrom said the council must decide how aggressively it wants the city to pursue the tax revenue.

Harley Duncan, executive director of the Federation of Tax Administrators in Washington, said an increasing number of cities are looking at the idea. …

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