MASSCreative Opposes PILOT Payments on Cultural and other Non-Profit Institutions


Testifying before a panel of Massachusetts legislators, MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson spoke on behalf of the 400 arts and cultural institutional members of MASSCreative in opposition to proposed legislation regarding so-called “Payments in Lieu of Taxes,”, better known as PILOTs.

In a number of cities across the Commonwealth, officials send “tax” bills to nonprofit institutions, including cultural organizations, to pay the city fees in lieu of taxes because of their tax-exempt status. The legislation proposals at the State House would institutionalize various forms of PILOT payments across the Commonwealth.

“The notion of Payments in Lieu of Taxes assumes that somehow the institutions are using more in public resources than they are contributing. For the nonprofit arts and cultural community, nothing could be further from the truth. The Massachusetts Cultural Council reports that in 2015, arts and cultural organizations in the Commonwealth gave away 13,000,000 free admissions to ensure that arts are not only the province of the privileged,” said Wilson.

The Museum of Science, for example, has instituted a policy by which families who receive EBT benefits get free admission for up to a family of 4, assuring that income is not a barrier to the internationally renowned programming they provide.  Dozens of other arts and cultural institutions are now using EBT cards for free or reduced admissions.

Arts and cultural organizations have service to their communities as central to their missions. Yet, this commitment doesn’t come free. Institutions such as the Boston Children’s Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Isabella Gardner Museum, and the New England Aquarium provide services for the community that reach up to 10% of their budget for community and educational services to the students and residents of the Commonwealth. This number easily dwarves suggested “tax” payments. 

At a time when the Culture Wars have re-enveloped Washington, and the country’s commitment to art and culture are at risk, Massachusetts needs to recommit to its support of the cultural institutions so vital to vibrant, healthy, and equitable communities. The arts and cultural sector is proud to partner with the municipalities of the Commonwealth in pursuit of that goal. Unfortunately, the PILOT bills would put the nonprofit arts community at risk and would endanger their ability to deliver their services. 

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