2013-03-14 / News

Bill would make entire state tax-free art zone

According to a conservative estimate by Americans for the Arts, there are 3,248 arts-related businesses in Rhode Island registered with Dun & Bradstreet, a public company that licenses information on more than 205 businesses worldwide.

The arts-related businesses in Rhode Island employ 13,445 workers. The total does not include nonprofit groups and their employees, or individual artists.

Rep. Donna M. Walsh, who represents Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown and New Shoreham, want to boost Rhode Island’s growing arts community and its economy, particularly through tourism. To do this she has introduce legislation to extend Rhode Island’s existing tax-free art zones to include the entire state. For oneof a-kind works of art, her proposed legislation would eliminate the 7 percent sales tax.

She says foregoing this revenue is an investment in creating more jobs in galleries and nonprofits, more opportunities for artists to devote more time to their work, and increased opportunities to expand our vitally important tourism industry.

Rhode Island also plays host to one of America’s finest arts schools, the Rhode Island School of Design, and she believes the bill would help encourage graduates to stay, work and create in Rhode Island.

Walsh said she was inspired to introduce this legislation after several discussions with a constituent, David Gilstein, who runs the Charlestown Art Gallery.

“[Gilstein] told me that he hears frequent comments from buyers that the 7-percent sales tax is a disincentive to buying more works of art,” she said, “both original as well as commercially made. He noted that Rhode Island allows some small and sharply defined areas to benefit from the tax break, but that the arts are becoming far more widespread throughout the state.”

Encouraging more and more artists and galleries has become part of the comeback strategy for communities such as Pawtucket and Central Falls.

“We need a tax change that will encourage this trend to bring more tourists and art buyers to Rhode Island,” she said. “My legislation builds on the experimental arts districts already in existence to provide the same benefit to artists and those who display and sell their work statewide.”

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