Originally created 02/23/98

`Free' tickets taxed 022398 - The Augusta Chronicle

It's going to be a tough tax season for many government officials in the Atlanta-Fulton County area who accepted free luxury box passes to Braves' baseball games. For the first time ever they're going to have to pay taxes on them.

News reports that some of the tickets were sold and traded for profit terminated the decades-long tax-free giveaway, one of the dearest "perks" of public office. The Atlanta City Council and Fulton County Commission both voted to ban such freebies in the future.

But that wasn't the worst of it. The Internal Revenue Service, hearing of the reports, asked for a list of officials receiving the tickets. The Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, of course, complied, sending tax forms to the agency listing tickets' value as income to such high-powered politicos as Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis and Authority Chairman Mack Wilbourn.

Wilbourn says he received about $8,000 worth of free tickets last year which translates into about $2,700 in extra taxes, assuming a 28 percent federal tax rate and 6 percent Georgia rate.

And there may be more bad news ahead. The IRS could seek taxes three years back on undeclared income. That would triple Wilbourn's bill. The IRS might also want to find out which public officials received free Falcons and Hawks luxury tickets, boosting the tax bills still higher.

Losing the free tickets is the least of the pain. It's the taxes they'll have to pay that'll really hurt. But somehow we doubt few Georgians will feel sorry for them. Ordinary working folks already know there's no free lunch -- or free tickets.


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