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NYCB Theatre at Westbury settles Nassau tax dispute

The NYCB Theatre in Westbury is shown here

The NYCB Theatre in Westbury is shown here on Monday, June 22, 2015. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The NYCB Theatre at Westbury, one of Long Island’s largest live entertainment venues, has agreed to pay Nassau County $422,030 to settle a dispute over several years of unpaid ticket taxes.

The County Legislature’s Rules and Finance committees on Monday unanimously approved the settlement between the county and Westbury Music Fair LLC, a subsidiary of Live Nation. The agreement will be considered by the full legislature on Aug. 1.

The agreement stems from an audit last year by County Comptroller George Maragos, which found that the theater owed Nassau $548,198 in ticket surcharge taxes stemming from 183 events held between 2012 and 2014.

The county collects a $1.50-per-seat surcharge from all local venues with a permanent capacity of more than 2,500 seats. The tax applies to all seats at the venue, no matter how many tickets are sold.

NYCB Theatre, which seats 2,900 people, often blocked off seats to some events, reducing its capacity to below 2,500, and theater officials had argued that tickets from those shows should have been exempt from the surcharge.

Maragos last year urged County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration to take “all necessary steps” to collect the money owed by NYCB Theatre — a long-standing theater-in-the-round-style venue — and suggested they seek additional unpaid tickets taxes owed from previous years. Maragos also criticized the treasurer’s office for lax oversight.

The NYCB Theatre, Maragos said, owed $321,361 in unpaid taxes, $160,681 in penalties and $66,156 in interest.

The county attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday on the final settlement amount. Maragos said he hadn’t been briefed on the proposed settlement.

“In principle, however, we are against settlements with vendors for less than the full amount owed,” Maragos said. “This would be unfair to residents who have to pay their taxes in full.”

Maragos last year had characterized the actions of the theater’s corporate management as “another example of large organizations that feel there are no consequences to not paying their taxes.”

By contrast, an audit Maragos conducted last year of the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, which also is subject to the surcharge, found that the venue had paid all but $2,488 of what it owed to the county over a two-and-a-half-year period.

Live Nation representatives did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Joseph T. Gulant, an attorney for NYCB Theatre, wrote last year that Maragos’ audit, “raises legitimate concerns as to whether this surcharge is being imposed in a fundamentally fair manner,”

Gulant said the theater was at a “competitive disadvantage” with venues that have fewer seats and therefore never have to pay the tax.

The NYCB Theatre booked performers including Ringo Starr, Tony Bennett, Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Short and Chelsea Handler during the audit period.


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