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You've met me right? - Tactical Ninja

Jun. 15th, 2012

09:47 am - You've met me right?

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This morning I swapped my mouse at work to the left hand side. It seems my pain-free week is over. Wednesday my shoulder started hurting again, and yesterday evening I found myself taking Panadol again. I don't think it's as bad this time in that it's more generalised and less localised to my neck, but yeah. Pain's back. I have another appointment with OsteoDude today, but meanwhile I figure anything I change about what I do at work will probably alter my movements, and right now that's a good thing.

Everything's taking a bit longer, but when I get good at it I'll be able to write and mouse at the same time. Wheee!


So it seems that Kiwiburn is looking at applying for charity status. In New Zealand, the rules around registering as a charitable trust are fairly broad, and the beneficiaries of a charity don't have to be disadvantaged for the purpose to be considered charitable. I would say that technically, Kiwiburn is eligible to register as a charity, which would make it tax exempt (for most things anyway) and help it continue to run as an event.

For most people, I suspect that "It's good enough for the law, it's good enough for me, go for it" is about as much thought as they'll need to put into it. I envy those people.

Y'see, my first question is "Are we really a charity?" When I think about what a charity is, Kiwiburn is not the first thing that springs to my mind. I see charities as existing to improve the lives of those who would not be able to achieve those improvements without the help of the charity - who do not have the options that the general public have. So yes, I do see charity as being for the disadvantaged. And the mostly white middle-class people who attend Kiwiburn are not disadvantaged - most of those people have the resources to pursue leisure activities such as those provided by Kiwiburn without the help of charity. As evidenced by being able to afford to buy themselves a ticket and get themselves there.

I do think that Kiwiburn does good things for individuals and communities. It has enhanced my life, and it has enhanced my community. It promotes art and community, and more importantly, it promotes the sort of internal change that people tend to take away and share with others, and I've seen first hand how this can change people's lives for the better. So in that sense, it does have, for want of a better word, a noble purpose.

However, I struggle with the idea that this noble purpose equates to charity, when the provision of the means to achieve this noble purpose is only to those who buy a ticket (and thus become members of Kiwiburn Inc). Is it really a charity when it exists solely for the members of the charity who pay an annual fee to be a member? Sounds more like a country club to me.

And here's my problem. Technically, Kiwiburn can achieve charity status. But in my heart I find it difficult to see Kiwiburn as a charity, and I can't help but notice that the reason this is being considered is as a means of stabilising the organisation financially. Which (again in my heart) feels like deciding on a course of action for financial reasons and then spinning it to provide an ethical rationalisation. And deep in my heart, this feels very self-serving.

I am in two minds as to whether I'm ethically ok with supporting this move. This does not mean I consider KB to be unethical, even if they do go ahead with this. It's about me, and my personal ethics, and whether I can find a balance between the self-service and the community service aspects of this decision that will sit ok on my conscience.

I want Kiwiburn to continue as an event, there is no doubt about that. But I am not sure whether I'm ok with this means of doing it.


Like I said, I envy those people who can just accept the technical, black-letter-law approach and have that be the end of it. OHAI drug policy, criminology, critical analysis person, how did you take over my head so thoroughly?

*cough*

Anyway, I shall continue to put thought into this. Wise words welcome, defensive accusations can fuck the fuck off.

Tonight we are going to see Prometheus. I'm told it's shiny. I'm up for a bit of shiny, but I might dose up on painkillers first eh?

Comments:

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From:polychrome_baby
Date:June 14th, 2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
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What if they actually did charitable things with it like provide a sliding scale ticket or free ticket to people who would meet some sort of criteria? Or held events that would benefit and nurture community like art festivals or?
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From:tatjna
Date:June 14th, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
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I know that the sliding scale ticket idea has been mooted before, but am not sure what the outcome of that was. I know tickets have always been available using an early-bird system, but as you know this generally doesn't really address who's buying them based on level of advantage.

I love the idea of art festivals outside KB, this does happen to an extent but they are generally created by burners as fundraisers for KB rather than charity events by KB.

KB necessarily sails pretty close to the wind financially. ;-/
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From:polychrome_baby
Date:June 14th, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
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Yes. I think turning these into actual charity events that support the future community of KB would make more sense if they are doing it under the guise of charity.

1) Promote art and maker festivals
2) Support future artists and makers
3) Artists and makers grow and join KB community
4) KB community grows and gets it's next generation of artists and makers

I just sorta think there should be actual prizes and awards. Scholarships to KB, at the very least, and perhaps materials for the top best at the most?
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From:tatjna
Date:June 14th, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
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KB does have an art grants scheme, which awards money to artists for art that is created for/at the festival. I guess that could be seen as arts charity in some respects - it allows artists to claim back their costs in creating art for KB anyway. Hmm..
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From:polychrome_baby
Date:June 14th, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
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The thing is, the burn community around here is very supportive of each other, BUT very cliquish. If you aren't in it, then good luck getting in it.

This is both bad and good. Great in that it makes safe space, bad in that it's a deadend of creativity.

Also are the problems of it being a very expensive endeavor. It's one of the things that truly makes national burns so... oh, hey, it's the same 1500 or so wealthy assed people whereas local burns more often have more financial diversity. More community involvement and sponsership would promote a more diverse burn community with far more creativity.

This has to be something that the burn communities as a whole decide is important, though, and currently, it just isn't.
I mean, sure there's been talk about the privilege factor and such, but no talk about changing it, or how to change it, or even what feels like a true will to change it so much as a commentary that this is part of it.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 14th, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
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I think our demographic would probably be a bit different, partly because our national burn is generally only about 500 people and partly because our national makeup and culture are different.

From what I've seen having gone to a couple of US burns, there's a wider range of incomes represented here - at least partly because we're a little country and getting there isn't quite the deal it is in the US.

The burner community in Wellington could be seen as cliquey, I think - but at the same time it seems there are enough of us that it isn't just one community, something I noticed when I went to that burn party* the other night was that there were a lot of people there who I didn't personally know (which isn't how it was four years ago when we did it).

But I think the burner community as a whole probably mostly sees keeping the main burn going to be the priority, and community building being a result of that. They could be right.

[oops edit] * It was held in a pool hall open to the public and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of costumed burners dancing with bogans playing pool. Dunno if it convinced anyone to go to KB but it was neat that we could coexist in the same venue and have fun together.

Edited at 2012-06-14 11:55 pm (UTC)
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From:polychrome_baby
Date:June 15th, 2012 01:56 am (UTC)
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I do often wish that I could visit, I just don't know that I'm ever truly going to be up for an entire day's worth of air flight.


and that has nothing to do with anything....
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From:tatjna
Date:June 15th, 2012 02:19 am (UTC)
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You are one of the folks on my list of People I'd Like To Meet In Person, and one day when going to the US isn't so scary any more, I'm totally going to do an LJ tour and meet y'all.
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From:dreadbeard
Date:June 14th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
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*Shrug* The word is not the thing.

A group of people doing stuff is a group of people doing stuff. A bunch of weird arbitrary legal fictions exists to regulate how that happens. This is actually an area of interest to me, in that we need more of them to allow for specific outcomes, but that is a separate rant.

Anyway, from my brief reading of it, the change of status changes essentially nothing about how KB is run or done, yeah? It is essentially a legal side-step to say _this group of people doing _this thing can ackshully be called that_ and treated that_ way legally.

Like, in practice, I figure most people at the festival would not know or care, or notice any difference.

And then I stopped thinking about it.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 14th, 2012 10:52 pm (UTC)
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That's nice for you.

I wonder why it is that I look around me at all my friends being pissed off with the rich dodging tax through creating trusts to hide their wealth through legal loopholes, and politicians spinning policy that benefits their mates to make it seem as though it benefits society, and see parallels between that behaviour and this?

Maybe other people see it too and don't care. Maybe they know something I don't that makes that behaviour fundamentally different from this in some way. Maybe because this is on a small scale and there are benefits they feel it's justified, or maybe it is justified in a way that I am failing to see.

I have a problem here because if there's a standard to which we hold those we disagree with, I believe we must hold ourselves to it as well. I'm not sure doing this fits within that standard, for me.

But you're right, I doubt my ethical dilemma will make a hapeth of difference to what happens or how your average burner thinks about KB as an organisation. I doubt your average burner thinks about KB as an organisation at all tbh.
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From:dreadbeard
Date:June 14th, 2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
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"I have a problem here because if there's a standard to which we hold those we disagree with, I believe we must hold ourselves to it as well."

I agree with this.

I also think intent matters. That the same action performed with different intentions is a different action.

I also think that ruthlessly interrogating one's motives and intent is supremely vital, and a tricky business to boot.

(This is an admittedly metaphysical position which I cannot be arsed arguing in this forum, but am happy to discuss.)


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From:tatjna
Date:June 14th, 2012 11:21 pm (UTC)
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I don't think you'd have to argue that position in this forum, because when you say those things you're getting closer to the angle I'm coming from. I wouldn't call it metaphysical though, I'd call it principled. Whether those add up to the same thing might make for an interesting discussion next time I see you. ;-)
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From:pombagira
Date:June 14th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
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see that is kinda what i was thinking, so why dosn't kiwiburn want to pay the taxes they should be paying?

any my answer is that nope they are pretty much tax dodging. sure it will cost less but you know what a part of giving back to the community to my mind comes in the form of tax paying, not just buying stuff locally...

so in terms of me and how i feel about kiwiburns latest thing..

club/soicty good because it is a ticket based event

non profit, good because it is better to put any extra money we may have back into the festival..(and there are some pretty good tax brackets for non profit)

Charity not good because we are a ticket based event, and not a charity doing good for others for no money, we charge for tickets, and for the most people need a pretty good amount of money and recourses to take part in KB.. so no not a charity, and to become one is tantamount to tax Dodging..

besides how often do you have to purchase a ticket to become a member and gain benefit for a charity? and we know that while radical inclusion is a rule at KB we also know it doesn't include 1/people who are asshats, and 2/people who can't afford tickets and to get to where KB is..

Tax dodging.. bad, very very bad

opps might of ranted a bit.. *grins*
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:June 15th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
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I'm confused, I'm under the impression that KB doesn't rake up huge profits (see above comment from tatjna about sailing close to the line financially), so how can it be tax dodging?

I also understand that any extra profit from tickets generally goes to art grants, this is reasonable expense for an incorporated entity as part of it's normal operating costs... so these should be deducted before any calculation of "profit".

So my question is, if tax is such a big issue, who are the individuals that are profiting from it?

I'm not sure about NZ, but the US has both non-profit and charitable statuses. The only difference is that the latter one can allow people to donate and use that donation as a tax deduction.

If it's the same in NZ, who are the people with money want to give us donations?
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From:tatjna
Date:June 15th, 2012 01:05 am (UTC)
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From what I understand, the charitable recognition would allow KB to avoid paying tax in the years when it makes more money than it spends.

So a couple of years ago there was an attendance that exceeded projections by over 100, and consequently KB was liable for tax because it had 'profited'. The problem is that tax comes due in June, and KB's expenses for the year are usually in November-February - so KB had to pay tax on that 'profit' instead of being able to hold it over to spend in the following year's budget. In years when KB doesn't make this 'profit', this isn't a problem. Last year, I believe they budgeted for growth that didn't occur, and the event lost money. Because of the not-for-profit status, keeping a coffer to cover this involves paying tax, whereas charitable status, afaik, wouldn't.

This charity thing is a way of avoiding having to do that. In a literal sense, yes it is tax dodging. In the sense you're talking, nobody is actually profiting. Does that clarify?
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From:richdrich
Date:June 15th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
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There are plenty of (NZ) charities that charge most or all of their beneficiaries: St Johns, Zealandia*, the Red Cross.

The 'membership' thing at Kiwiburn doesn't actually exclude anyone except financially - it would be possible to have membership optional and separate from buying a ticket, but we instead make everyone who turns up a member.

* Ok, they don't charge the birds, just the visitors.
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From:bekitty
Date:June 14th, 2012 11:37 pm (UTC)
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Good points.

However, being registered with the Charities Commission doesn't really make an organisation into a charity as such. For example, the Wellington People's Centre was registered, but we were very definitely a membership-based organisation that worked via the empowerment model rather than the charity model. Advocates rather than agents, if you will.

That being said, I see Kiwiburn as being something for the more privileged* people in society. I'm not sure whether it works via either model, to be honest. Especially with the "everybody pays" thing. If they had something like a scholarship or a limited amount of free tickets for people who absolutely couldn't afford to go, like Druid Camp does, then that would be something.

And you have a very good point about the "early bird" ticketing sytem being to the advantage of people with more disposable income. If you have to save up for a ticket, it's just not that fair if you end up having to pay more than the folks with ready money.

* I'm not using "privileged" in a perjorative sense here, just as an observation.
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From:richdrich
Date:June 15th, 2012 01:02 am (UTC)
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Well, the charity law did get reviewed in 2005 (so not by NZ's most reactionary parliament) and they (presumably consciously) chose a wider definition than "improve the lives of those who would not be able to achieve those improvements without the help of the charity".

You and I might not agree with that, so it comes down, IMHO, to a question of whether, if you consider yourself to be undertaxed, you're under an ethical obligation to voluntarily pay the extra tax. For instance, I tend to the view that the higher rate of tax in NZ should be nearer 50% than 33%, but I'm not writing the government a cheque for the difference. Sorry, and that.

In terms of KB, I think that attempting to become a charity will be a lot of paperwork and save relatively little money. Saving a couple of thousand in a profitable year isn't going to fix the fundamental problem, which is that if, one year, less people turn up to an event than budgeted for, that event's in trouble. (See also the Gathering, Big Day Out and other ex-events).

"Spending less" is probably the best way to keep costs under control - which shouldn't be so hard for an event that doesn't pay anybody. [The other option would be to try and change the year-end to 31st December, such that the revenue from one year's event gets reckoned against the costs of the next one.]


Just my 0.5c
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From:tatjna
Date:June 15th, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
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My pragmatic 5c on ways of resolving the financial issues looks remarkably like yours. ;-)
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From:vernacularity
Date:June 15th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)
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I agre with lots of points in vrious discussion threads here: I also first jumped into the ideas "selective morality" "tax dodging" "loopholes" etc. Also though, if people are saying "well the law lets us do this so it must be ok" is there then an inconsistency with deciding to ignore other laws because people disagree with them?

I agree with the idea that bucks would be better saved, and I understand that maybe charitable status is the only currently viable way of doing it. But it does kinda feel like cheating.

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From:tatjna
Date:June 15th, 2012 08:29 am (UTC)
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Pretty much this, yeah. It just feels.. dodgy.
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From:vernacularity
Date:June 15th, 2012 08:34 am (UTC)
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could be that "charitable" is just a category in law defined to represent a particular sector of interests and activities,not necessarily fully corresponding to the socially understood meaning of the word, for applying a particular appropriate tax or financial status for a particular variety of group enterprise.
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From:dreadbeard
Date:June 16th, 2012 04:55 am (UTC)
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yes.
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