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Archive for Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Public vs. private: Golf courses seek level playing field on taxes

February 8, 2006

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— Privately-owned golf courses Tuesday teed up legislation that would increase taxes paid by players at city- and county-owned links.

Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, said it was a question of fairness because privately-held courses have to charge their patrons sales taxes while government courses do not.

"This is about leveling the playing field and putting some equity into the situation we have," Tafanelli told the House Tax Committee.

The committee took no action on the bill, but Chairman Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, said the panel would work on it later. If enacted, the measure would generate $1 million annually in taxes.

The dispute pits privately-held courses that are open to the public against those owned by governmental units, such as Eagle Bend Golf Course in Lawrence.


Jeff Hackel and Brett Temple play golf at the city of Lawrence's Eagle Bend Golf Course. Officials at some privately-owned golf courses say courses such as Eagle Bend have an unfair advantage because players at municipal courses do not pay sales taxes on green fees.

Jeff Hackel and Brett Temple play golf at the city of Lawrence's Eagle Bend Golf Course. Officials at some privately-owned golf courses say courses such as Eagle Bend have an unfair advantage because players at municipal courses do not pay sales taxes on green fees.

Fred DeVictor, director of parks and recreation for the city of Lawrence, attended the hearing, but didn't testify.

Later, he said it wouldn't be fair to charge sales tax to customers at Eagle Bend because taxpayers already are subsidizing the course.

In addition, he said, "The policy charge of municipal government is trying to provide affordable golf."

If sales taxes are charged on green fees, DeVictor said, the next step may be to charge sales taxes at city-owned recreation centers and swimming pools.

But owners of private golf courses said they have to compete with city-owned courses.

"Dollars spent in this state for entertainment and recreational activity should be taxed equally across the board," said Torrey Head, the owner of Western Hills Golf Club in Topeka.

Meril Vanderpool, owner of The Village Greens, between Meriden and Ozawkie, also testified in favor of making the municipal courses charge sales tax.

But DeVictor and other municipal golf course representatives said the sales tax exemption was put in place to allow folks who would not be able to afford country club memberships a chance to play.

"Many times, people come to our courses to learn how to play and then we become feeders to those other courses," he said.

Green fees at Eagle Bend are $20 on weekdays. Adding sales tax to that amount would be less than an additional $1.50.

At Western Hills, Head estimated he figures about 90 cents of taxes into his $15 weekday green fees.

Rep. David Huff, R-Lenexa, said he didn't know why either side was making such a fuss over what he said was a small amount of additional expense.

Huff said he sees players with $500 shoes, $500 clubs and $500 golf bags. "And they're griping about 90 cents?" he asked.

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