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L.A. sues Petersen Automotive Museum over $121,000 parking tax debt

January 29, 2010 |  8:10 am

PetersenSolarCar The Petersen Automotive Museum has been hit with a $121,000 parking ticket -- not because of the rare and spectacular cars that fill the Miracle Mile institution's galleries, but because of a dispute with City Hall over whether the more common specimens that visitors arrive in should be subject to the 10% municipal parking tax.

Last month, the city sued the museum to collect $92,000 in taxes, plus interest and penalties, that it says were owed from July 2004 through June 2007.

Dick Messer, Petersen’s executive director, said this week that, while the museum pays taxes on the parking income it gets by renting spaces on a monthly basis to non-visitors, it considers the $2 to $8 it collects from museum-goers who use the garage to be part of its regular operations, and therefore tax-exempt.

“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,” Messer said.

The museum wanted to straighten out the issue years ago when it was first billed for parking taxes, Messer said, but the letters it sent evidently fell through a bureaucratic crack at City Hall and it never received a response.

The J. Paul Getty Trust pays about $700,000 a year in parking taxes on its visitor garages at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa, a spokeswoman said, because "we think it's our legal obligation to do so." A spokeswoman for the Petersen's across-the-street neighbor, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, said it contracts out its parking to a private operator, who pays the tax.

For my full story, click here.

-- Mike Boehm

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Photo: The Mana La Solar Car, a recent acquisition of the Petersen Automotive Museum. Credit: Petersen Automotive Museum

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