In Spain, limiting tax burdens with carrots

(CBS News) BESCANO, Spain - Spain is in a financial crisis: The economy is in recession; the government deep in debt; unemployment hovers around 26 percent.

The crisis was threatening to put theaters out of business. Then a theater owner got an ingenious idea that is straight out of Bugs Bunny.

Other places' theatrical productions may be about drama and song. In Spain right now, they're also about vegetables, specifically carrots.

Carrots are the humble root which may determine whether Quim Marce's theater in the town of Bescano (north of Barcelona) lives or dies -- and a lot of others too.

Why? Because the Spanish government has recently just about tripled the sales tax on theater tickets and Quim feared that no one would ever fill these seats, until he made a discovery while out shopping.

The tax on carrots is four percent, while the tax on theater tickets is 21 percent.

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Quim Marce did the math. Food for the body was a 4 percent tax, food for the soul a 21 percent tax. There had to be a way to bridge the gap. There was.

Quim's doesn't sell tickets now. He sells carrots -- expensive ones -- up to 13 euros ($17) for a single carrot.

If you pay seventeen bucks for the carrot, you get the ticket for nothing. It's not really a laughing matter.

Theaters, movie houses and museums across the country are all being hit by the new tax and are looking seriously at the carrot caper. Why should they be hit, they ask, when sports entertainment, like soccer, it still taxed at a much lower rate.

The taxman hasn't challenged the carrot loophole yet.

If he does, Quim has another idea, and those involve potatoes and eggs.

On second thought, in a theater, maybe not eggs.

Spain needs innovative thinking to get out of its economic mess, and Quim Marce is providing some.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

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