WBA scores broadcaster sales tax breaks

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WBAThe Wisconsin Broadcasters Association scored a major victory for WBA members by passing legislation that radio and television stations with a sales tax exemption on the purchase of broadcast equipment and the supplies and electricity which are used to create radio and television products.


The victory for WBA members culminated more than three years of work by association members, the board and staff.  Assembly Bill 5 was introduced on February 1, 2013 and passed by the Assembly on March 20, 2014.  Just 12 days later, the Wisconsin State Senate passed the bill by 30-3. Governor Walker recently signed the bill and it will go into effect on 7/1.

The bi-partisan bill had 38 co-sponsors and another 49 legislators who committed to support the WBA’s legislative priority. In the final Assembly & Senate votes, 122 legislators supported the bill while a mere four legislators opposed the bill.  For those who opposed AB-5 it was due to their opposition to sales tax exemption bills in general.

The path to victory was by no means easy.  The WBA had the first sales tax exemption bill introduced in the 2011-2012 legislative session and while it gained traction, there simply was not enough time in the session to move the bill to a hearing.

While the WBA monitors and engages on many legislative and regulatory issues, this is the first major piece of legislation the WBA has pushed since 1999 when a personal property tax exemption for digital broadcast equipment was included in the state budget.

Mishelle Vetterkind

“This victory was truly a result of the dedication and commitment of WBA members,” said Michelle Vetterkind, WBA President & CEO.  “Every time we asked for calls to be made, emails to be sent and meetings with legislators be held, WBA members answered the call.  And, the votes showed how important that grassroots effort was!”

The exemption only covers property that is used exclusively for creating television or radio programming. The exemption does not apply to property that is used for administrative purposes, like a broadcaster’s accounting and personnel services.

AB 5 was authored by Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, and Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend.

Erwin Krasnow
Said Erwin Krasnow, co-chair of the Communications Group of Garvey Schubert Barer, former General Counsel of the NAB: “The legislation is good example of the lobbying strength of broadcasters on a local level when they are united on a legislative issue.”

Frank Montero
Said Francisco Montero, Managing Partner, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C.: “I love to hear stories like this.  The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association is a great organization.  I personally believe that the state broadcast associations are the unsung heroes of the broadcasting industry.  They have done so much for the public and the broadcasters.  Many of the public service announcements and charitable initiatives we see and hear on the air are sponsored by the state broadcasting associations. They are strong supporters of the national guard for their states and they address important issues at the state level that cannot be properly handled in Washington, DC. They also increasingly handle station inspections to check compliance with the FCC’s rules and requirements through ABIP programs.  The exemption from sales tax is certainly one of these initiatives.  Other state broadcasters have pushed for similar exemptions in their states.  If you haven’t reached out to your state’s broadcast association or attended one of their conferences, I highly recommend it.  It’s worth your time and effort.”
John Garziglia
Noted John Garziglia, Esq. Communications Law/Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP: “This win for WBA members vividly illustrates the benefits to broadcasters making their views known on proposed broadcaster-centric legislation at both a local and a national level.  Whether it is taxes on broadcast equipment at the state level, or radio performance fees at the federal level, broadcaster involvement in the legislative process often is the difference in whether substantially higher costs are imposed on broadcasters.”

David Oxenford
Added David Oxenford, Partner, Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer, LLP: “There are a number of states with such exemptions – putting stations on an equal footing with newspapers in these states which have tax exemptions for their means of productions – printing presses and the like.”