I spent this past weekend at the Phoenix Comicon, one of my favorite conventions of the year. I will be writing up a con recap shortly. But something that bugged me this weekend about the show was something the convention had no control over and something that I think there should at least be a conversation about.
Last year, I wrote up a post about how I had an incident with a city tax employee. This was something that the convention organizers went above and beyond to resolve. It ended up with me have a business license in the state of Arizona that would expire the weekend before the next convention. Meaning I had to pay $50 for a license to sell comics for four days, and for some folks that is a big chunk of what they end up netting for the weekend.
Knowing I needed the license, I renewed it when it expired, which cost me $50. The day before the convention I noticed on the site that there is a second tax license I would need. This one is for the state of Arizona (the first was just for the city of Phoenix) and would cost me another $12. I went through the on-line thing and signed up, paid my money, but didn't get my license (which they say takes 24 hours) yet. I went into the show down $62 in licenses so I could be there for four days.
I sat next to Kurt Busiek,
who brought no books with him because he didn't have the tax licenses. The number of times he had to explain that to someone at his table asking to buy a copy of Autumnland: Tooth & Claw told me he would have been able to sell quite a few copies.
Update – I misinterpreted the reason Mr. Busiek wasn't selling book at the show. He has stated on his twitter account that he didn't want to sell books at the show and would have gotten the license had he wanted to. No disrespect for Mr. Busiek was intended.
It seems the tax codes in the different states and cities are becoming more oppressive and unwieldy. I thought the idea was that cities wanted folks to come in and do business. If I was more active on the convention circuit like I used to be, I would need to have licenses in a dozen different states. Which would mean filing taxes in that same number of states. I know some states have temporary sellers permits (California being one), but that didn't seem to be an option in Arizona.
There has to be some better way of doing this. Maybe local comic shops could "sponsor" guest creators and the sales are attributed to the shops? Or creators could band together for a few shows and work under a single permit? I'm not claiming to have the answers, just spotlighting the problem.
Cities and states should be making it as easy as possible for companies and individuals to come in and sell their products. But it seems, at least with the City of Phoenix / State of Arizona, they are more concerned about getting their fees from the people that are willing to jump through the hopes that they ignore the money they're not getting form the people who just don't want to deal with it. They have a great convention, run by great people and attended by great fans… a shame the tax codes hasn't be simplified to help the convention grow.