Ken Ham Caves on the Ticket Tax

We know you’re familiar with the background for this because the last time we wrote about it was yesterday — see Hambo Reverses the Ark Transfer.

Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else, had apparently yielded to reality — something creationists don’t like to do. In order to preserve a potential sales tax kick-back of $18 million from the state of Kentucky, the land on which Hambo’s replica of Noah’s Ark sits was transferred back to its original owner, Ark Encounter LLC, a for-profit corporation. It had briefly been transferred to Crosswater Canyon, it’s not-for-profit corporate parent.

The ark’s brief ownership excursion was an effort to evade the safety tax of fifty cents imposed by the city of Williamstown for every admission ticket sold by Ark Encounter, because the city’s safety tax doesn’t apply to non-profit entities; but the threat of losing the state’s sales tax kick-back was too much for ol’ Hambo, so he transferred the ark back to where it had been.

Of course, that left the issue of the city’s ticket tax. Apparently that’s been resolved too. The Lexington Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky has this headline: After months of disagreement, Noah’s Ark operators say they will pay safety tax. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

The operators of a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County say they will pay Williamstown’s safety tax even though they disagree with it, and in fact, they have been collecting 50 cents on every ticket sold since July 1.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We imagine ol’ Hambo is red in the face, foaming at the mouth, and rolling around chewing the carpet. How dare those government clerks impose taxes on him? He’s on a mission to save us from the godless lie of evolution and millions of years, so he shouldn’t have to pay for anything. This is an outrage!

The newspaper says:

In April, Williamstown City Council members imposed the tax on the city’s three entertainment venues, of which Ark Encounter is by far the largest. Ark Encounter officials balked, saying they had not been warned about their assessment, which would raise about $700,000 a year to pay for more emergency services to serve the venue. In further discussions, they offered to cap the fee at $350,000, then $500,000. They also asked for an exemption from the tax on religious grounds, which the city refused.

Yes, we remember. The Lexington Herald-Leader gives us some more background. You know this stuff, but it’s fun to see it all in one story:

At that point, the Ark operators sold their main parcel of land to their non-profit affiliate for $10. It’s currently valued at $48 million, sparking fears in Williamstown that as a non-profit, Ark operators would try to exempt themselves from all property taxes.

At that moment — a brief moment — ol’ Hambo thought he was very slick. However:

That’s when the state Tourism Cabinet stepped in, saying that a separate sales tax rebate of up to $18 million would be suspended because the transfer had breached the agreement with the state. On Friday, the land was transferred back to Ark Encounter LLC, a for-profit organization.

Oh, how embarrassing! We’ll skip most of the rest, including a self-serving statement from Ark co-founder Mark Looy, but this is interesting:

Tourism officials had no comment on whether the sales tax rebate would now move forward.

So there you are. The city of Williamstown will collect their ticket tax, and Hambo will probably get his sales tax kick-back. As we pointed out before, the state’s sales tax is 6%, so that’s $2.40 for a $40 adult ticket. Hambo’s kick-back is 25% of the sales tax, or $.60 per adult ticket. That’s pretty much the same as the city’s safety tax, so Hambo needs the sales tax kick-back to pay for the ticket tax — unless he adds it to the price of a ticket — which is already $40 plus $2.40 sales tax. When you add the city’s $.50 safety tax, the total cost of an adult ticket is $42.90. No problem– his drooling customers will pay for it. But they may not return for additional visits, so this isn’t good for future business.

Hambo tried to have it both ways, but he ended up outsmarting himself. That’s okay. He still has the rainbow. They can’t take that away from him.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Ken Ham Caves on the Ticket Tax

  1. The Curmudgeon: “Hambo’s kick-back is 25% of the sales tax, or $.60 per adult ticket. That’s pretty much the same as the city’s safety tax, so Hambo needs the sales tax kick-back to pay for the ticket tax . . . ”

    But the rebate would also be available on sales tax collected from the sales of food/beverage and merchandise inside the park. A low-ball estimate of in-park revenue is half the revenue from ticket sales. (“Globally, all in – park revenue of amusement parks averages from 43% to 49% of the park’s total income”. Low-balling it would put it at a third, or half of ticket revenue.)

    By this estimate, however much in sales tax rebates Ham gets from ticket sales, he’ll get an additional half of that more from the sales tax rebates on in-park sales.

  2. The Curmudgeon: “When you add the city’s $.50 safety tax, the total cost of an adult ticket is $42.90. No problem– his drooling customers will pay for it. But they may not return for additional visits, so this isn’t good for future business.”

    But on the bright side, it’s one more reason to buy the Season Pass.

  3. SC calculates: “…the total cost of an adult ticket is $42.90”. Might as well round it up to $43.00. The flock is fleeced already.

  4. Martin in Mason

    And, won’t the 50 cents per ticket also allow everyone to find out exactly how many tickets are being sold, which so far has been a rather elusive number.

  5. Wow, the city’s lawyers were smarter than Hambo’s lawyers. What a surprise. I guess biblical learning doesn’t help with secular law. Weird.

  6. I’d like to hope that these recent Ark shenanigans — claiming a religious exemption (denied), selling itself to become non-profit, buying itself back to regain for-profit status — will catch the eye of someone with legal standing who can sue the Ark for its religious discrimination in hiring.

    It’s already caught the eye of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the ones who recently (temporarily?) suspended the Ark’s sales tax rebate.

    This is the same state agency who had previously withheld approval of the sales tax rebate back in 2014 (in part, because of the Ark’s discriminatory hiring practices). The Ark sued in Federal District Court and won (based on an incompetent or incomplete understanding by the judge of the relationship between the for-profit Ark and its non-profit parent). The State appealed, but it never was adjudicated in the Appeals Court because the Statehouse administration had changed and in 2016 the new Governor Matt Bevin instructed his lawyers to drop the appeal.

    Now that the dodgy corporate structure of the Ark family of businesses is in the headlines again, and a bright and material distinction has been drawn between the for-profit Ark and its non-profit parent, I’m hoping that someone with legal standing will sue the Ark for its religious discrimination in hiring.

    Should they prevail, that might even be the basis for the sales tax rebates to be permanently suspended.

  7. Eddie Janssen

    It would have been really funny if the resale price would have been 11 dollars.

  8. What system is there to make sure he is reporting correctly? Can he now charge .50 more for each ticket, and then report only half of them? Thus pocketing an additional 50 cents for the others?

  9. I wouldn’t be surprised if the county continues with its plans to peel back the other tax breaks they’ve given – Ham and Co. have amply demonstrated that they are not acting in good faith and deserve no special consideration.

  10. techreseller

    I, some years ago, was at dinner at a friends house. The Deputy Director for Enforcement for the IRS was in attendance. A statement of his has stuck with me. He said, “if you avoid taxes, you will never hear from me. If you evade taxes, I will be your nightmare”. Ol Hambo here is attempting to evade taxes. That gets the IRS and state government revenue officers upset. And they are patient and persistent.

  11. Kosh, he wants to report ticket sales accurately to get the sales tax kickback from the state, so he can’t simultaneously report lower ticket sales to save on the city’s safety tax.

  12. Eric Lipps

    But he’ll try.