The meter is still ticking on the Petersen Automotive Museum for what might be an expensive misunderstanding.
The museum of automotive art is a popular landmark in a town that loves its cars. But it's not the Wilshire-Fairfax museum's cars that interest the city of LA -- it's the adjoining parking garage.
The city says that what goes in, must come out in the form of parking taxes. But museum officials said the museum is a nonprofit that needs the money to operate.
"You'd think the city would want to encourage nonprofits to be self-sustaining and have streams of revenues to keep them open and going. Apparently not," Dick Messer, the museum's executive director, told the LA Times.
The museum already pays taxes on fees collected from monthly parkers, Messer said. As for the money collected from museum visitors, Messer said that's tax-exempt.
A spokesman for the city attorney's office said the museum is exempt from business taxes, but not parking taxes. The Times spoke to Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney's office:
Mateljan said it's like a sales tax, in that the person who parks owes the tax, not the parking lot operator. But, as with retailers and sales taxes, the parking operator is required to collect the tax from its customers and forward the money to the city.
Auto museum officials said they tried to contact the city, but didn't receive a response. Until last month when the city filed a lawsuit.
The Times reported that the city filed the lawsuit to collect $92,000 in taxes plus fees. The money represents taxes owed from July 2004 thorugh June 2007, according to the city.
All this might be a big, costly misunderstanding. Councilman Tom LaBonge represents the museum's district.
"They did not realize that they should have been collecting this tax. We're working... to find a method which would not cripple the museum but would resolve the problem," LaBonge said.