Chapter 8: The power to tax and the First Amendment: Mavrides v. Board of Equalization
Paul Mavrides has been an artist since 1976, working in a variety of media, including comics and graphic art. He is best known for a short stint he spent in the 1970s working as a co-creator with Gilbert Shelton on an underground comic known as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. The three brothers spent a great deal of time and effort in the pursuit of drugs (mostly marijuana), casual sex and rock and roll. In his non-comix creator role as a commercial artist, Mavrides was registered with the California state taxing authority, the Board of Equalization (BOE), as a vendor. When he sold original pieces of artwork to clients, he charged sales tax on the transaction, and paid the tax to the BOE. When he filed his state tax returns in 1991 for the 1990 calendar year, he listed his sales income and the tax owed. He also listed his royalty income for his comics work, and filed for an exemption from tax for that income. In requesting this exemption, he was following his pattern over many years of work in the comics industry based on his understanding that the work of an author, submitted for subsequent publication, was exempt from tax, since ultimately the sale of the published work would be a sales taxable transaction, so taxing the work in transit would be a double taxation. The relevant regulation in California law was found in §_1543(b) of the California Sales and Use Tax Regulation.
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