Dear Comic Creator, October, 1995

The California State Board of Equalization, with its action against me, has threatened our livelihoods, our legal status as literary authors, and our First Amendment right to free speech.

Under the Sales Tax Board's severe and invidious interpretation of what qualifies as an author's manuscript, comic creators are classified as mere manufacturers of camera ready printer's aids, rather than as authors.

Authors are exempt from sales taxation because the State recognizes that placing sales tax on authors' incomes would inhibit use of an elemental and Constitutionally protected form of free expression by burdening authors and publishers with what would literally be a tax on speech itself. The Tax Board doesn't care if comics authors, publishers and readers alike suffer under such a burden. Our work, in their discriminatory eyes, is only a "template for manufacture" and does not contribute to society in any sphere outside that of monetary commerce.

The Tax Board does not make idle threats. If you live in the State of California, you should know that:

The Board has promised that, should it prevail in my case, it intends to obtain your name and address from your California publisher, track you down (literally coming to your home and knocking on your front door if necessary, as they did mine), forcibly (under threat of removal of your legal right to do business, thus depriving you of any ability whatsoever to earn an income from freelance work within California, except as an employee of someone else's business) register you as a California business, back audit your financial records all the way to 1990, and impose on you the same type of assessment they have claimed against me (plus interest and penalties), based on your earnings past and present that you have derived from your comic work produced by your California based publishers.

You will them be personally responsible for payment of this sum to the State as soon as possible. If you do not pay, the State will rescind your permit to do business (your Seller's permit) and place a lien on your money and property (causing damage to your credit rating for at least seven years, due to the presence on your credit record of the aforementioned lien. If this happens, you can pretty much forget about buying a house or car through a bank loan.). If you ignore the lien, the State will simply empty your checking and savings accounts at will, and possibly seize your tangible business and private property for auction to pay off your debt. In addition, the rescission of your Seller's Permit will prevent you from making new publication contracts with California publishers and earning income from your work.

When the Board audits your publisher's business records for names and addresses of resident California comic creators, sooner or later, you will find yourself in the exact same position as myself. There is nowhere you can hide from the immense power of this State tax bureaucracy. The Board is trying to make me serve as a bullet with your name on it and the State of California has aimed their gun right between your eyes.

Sounds lovely, eh? A huge tax bill that you and you alone are liable for, based on your California royalty earnings of the past five years; additional business accounting costs to you; lower royalty rates as publishers adjust their budgets; the possibility of denial of credit or banking loans; the loss of readership due to higher cover prices on your books; the possible bankrupting of your California publisher; and the prevention of your ability to earn royalties, residuals and advances due to the withdrawal of your Seller's Permit by the State Government.

Readers and fans across the entire world who follow the work of California based comic creators might be denied future work from both established and new talents in the comics field as the financial damage from the effects of the BOE decision percolate throughout the entire comics publishing industry.

You aren't helpless, you know. Together, we can fight this autocratic assault on our profession and gain rightful and legitimate recognition as authors.

I intend to contest the Equalization Board on this First Amendment issue, with the financial aid of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary. I cannot stress emphatically enough that the Board must be challenged on this issue by all of us together. I cannot do it alone. We need to stand together on this issue. If the State prevails, it could very well lead to the destruction of the alternative and marginal comics scene in California as we know it. At the very least, the Board's action will severely restrict all comic creators' First Amendment speech rights and deny us legal status as authors, downgrading throughout America the legal and public perception of our work (and that of all comics) as valid works of literature.

With your help we will win.


Paul Mavrides

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