By Lori Lyn Lirio
COMMONWEALTH of Northern Marianas Islands Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Thursday signed a law providing a tax break for local artists.
The signing ceremony of House Bill 20-42, which is now Public Law 20-56, was witnessed by CNMI officials and artists. It was held at the Multi-Purpose Center after the proclamation signing ceremony of the 73rd Annual Flame Tree Arts Festival.
Rep. Angel Demapan, who introduced the bill in Feb. 2017, said it is a long-awaited legislation by all artists in the community.
“There was a law that provides tax break for fishermen and farmers. This law will include the registered artists. Basically, if you are a registered artists, and sold your artwork and you earn a gross of $20,000 or less in a year, you will pay zero tax,” Demapan said.
The lawmaker further explained that only one percent of tax will be paid by artist who earned above $20,000.
In an interview, Demapan said they want to give a tax break for the artists “in order to fulfill the mission of the Flame Tree Arts Festival, which is to promote, perpetuate, preserve and to perfect the arts in the Commonwealth.”
“It is very timely that it is enacted,” he said, adding that it applies to all kinds of artists – painter, bead makers, writers, song writers, singers, cultural and contemporary dancers and others.
Department of Cultural and Community Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter said the artist has to register to the Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture in order to avail of tax break.
“The tax break for artists is a big relief for all of those that don’t sell their artwork for over $20,000. Even if you do, you will only pay one percent,” he said, adding that it will dramatically change the livelihood of artists in the CNMI.
Hunter expressed appreciation for the high level support extended by Torres. He said the present administration understand the importance of arts and culture.
“They understand that we need to create a unique place and that should be reflect our culture and we need to brand ourselves using ours,” Hunter added.
Meanwhile, Demapan said he is currently working on introducing a revenue-generating measure for the arts.
Under this concept, Demapan said, the legislation will designate at least one percent of the construction costs of new buildings for the acquisition of works of art from local registered artists either by commission or purchase. He said this is similarly implemented in 28 States and territories.
“As a special fund, the moneys generated by these construction and renovation costs will go to the Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture for the active promotion and education of our cultural arts and crafts, and for practices such as traditional seafaring lessons,” he added.
Demapan believed that having this program will help promote and enhance the CNMI’s cultural identity.
“It will go a long way in terms of showcasing who we are as native people of the Marianas.”
“These funds will also be intended for the construction of a permanent performing arts facility that can accommodate festivals for arts, crafts and music,” he added.