Proposed D.C. ticket tax would fall mostly on team owners

A committee of the Washington, D.C., council is pushing a plan to add a ticket tax to sporting events in the District to fund parks and recreation programs: Tickets over $25 would get a $1 surcharge, those from $10 to $25 would get a 50 cent surcharge, and those under $10 would be spared. Also, the Washington Nationals would be exempt, as their lease with the city prohibits any additional ticket taxes — yet another argument in favor of the Nats’ lease being among the sweetest of sweetheart deals.

The Washington Post, perhaps predictably, says the new tax “would come out of fans’ pockets,” but that’s not entirely true: Most of the cost of ticket taxes end up getting folded into the face value of tickets, meaning local sports team owners would have to take a lower cut in order to keep from pricing themselves out of the market. (Team owners already price tickets as high as the market will bear, unless they’re really, really dumb.) And the higher surcharge on high-priced tickets might actually help keep some ticket prices down, as teams would have an incentive to keep tickets priced right at $25 or $10 without going over, to avoid triggering the higher levies.

The tax is expected to be voted on by the full council on May 26. Expect to hear plenty of howling from D.C. United and the Washington Wizards between now and then.

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