The perils of haste in tax reform

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was needed and timely. Combined with President Trump’s deregulation campaign, it has sparked business confidence, hiring, and wage growth. These were all badly needed after the stagnation of the Obama years. That said, the passage of a major piece of legislation of this kind is a messy process, and important details get left on the cutting room floor. In the case of the tax reform bill, one of those forgotten details was Section 199A. Most people have never heard of Section 199A,…

Tax plan puts Trump and Republicans on the hook

President Trump is unusually ebullient when it comes to political victories. And with an obstructionist Congress and insurgent press, they have been rare indeed. However, there was a lot of crowing over the holidays as the Tax Reform bill squeaked through Congress on a purely partisan vote. President Trump, along with Congressional leaders such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, is very vocal about taking responsibility for the “largest tax cut in our country’s history”. Some enthusiasts are happy with the result. Many other analysts are not sure how this…

What would real tax reform look like?

Watching the GOP self-immolate on their so-called “tax reform” bill is both painful and sickening. Like so many other efforts, it’s really just a reshuffling of the deck chairs, moving around various deductions and exemptions while barely fiddling with the rates. It’s rapidly turning into a PR disaster with unpopular items such as an exemption on private jets, eliminating deductibility for graduate school, and cuts to Medicare that holy crap will you anger AARP members who actually show up to vote. It’s almost like the GOP got a list of…

Tax reform turmoil

“The tax plan that the Trump administration outlined on Wednesday is a potentially huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans. It would not directly benefit the bottom third of the population. As for the middle class, the benefits appear to be modest.” – NY Times, 10/27/17 Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested Friday that former President Ronald Reagan would not be a fan of President Trump’s and Congressional Republican’s push for tax reform and would consider it an “absolute catastrophe.” – Washington Examiner, 10/27/17 With the details still in the…

Here’s why Amazon left 18% at the table

When news broke about Amazon starting to collect sales tax for purchases made in Utah, it seemed a little curious that they would not be taking advantage of a state law that would allow them to retain up to 18% of the taxes they collected. Aren’t businesses supposed to try and maximize their revenues and take advantage of any incentives available to them? Don’t feel too bad for Amazon, though. They’re actually going to do really well from their deal. While Amazon is passing on the 18%, they are still…

Free markets include taxation and regulation

On the political right, the free market is the holy grail of prosperity. And rightly so. Market-based economies have lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system devised by man. After all, that is the purpose of any moral economic order: human happiness. Sometimes the political right forgets that end game. Sometimes the political right sees the means as an end and forgets that, like all other human systems, the market economy has its own ecology comprised of many components that ensure its success. Honest observers understand…

Utah’s right wing is taxing

When it comes to taxes I am definitely prejudiced. I can’t stand them. In fact, I cannot remember a tax increase on a state or local ballot that I have voted for. This past election there was another tax increase on the ballot and, without even thinking about it, I voted against it. It’s not that I refused to think about it. It’s just that I already had thought about it years ago and decided to vote against any and every tax increase. Maybe moving from an employee to an…

Utah Property Taxes: What is a certified tax rate?

Each year each county in Utah calculates a new certified tax rate for all taxing entities (i.e. cities, school districts, and service districts) within their jurisdiction by taking the property tax revenue collected the previous year and dividing it by the current assessed property value within the taxing entities (exclusive of new growth). This is the tax rate is then applied to all assessed property (including growth) and the new total becomes the base for next year. Another way to say this is if our home value doubles then our…

Utah’s online sales tax bill died because it had serious flaws

The Salt Lake Tribune carried an op-ed this week bemoaning Utah’s Legislature caving-in to Amazon by failing to enact an online sales tax this legislative session. While I certainly agree that the price differential is hurting Utah businesses, this bill was the wrong way to level the playing field. The primary obstacle to this bill was in its implementation. The bill declared that if internet companies advertised on a website owned by a resident or corporation (commonly called an affiliate link) that is incorporated in the state of Utah, that is enough…

Taxing by the mile, not the gallon

Despite recent legislative changes to gas tax transportation funding in Utah, the problems with this once reliable revenue stream will only continue. Pacing with inflation (or lack thereof), more efficient vehicles and hybrids, are only part of the challenge. In response, even more progressive states like Massachusetts and Washington are considering a regressive idea: Taxing by the mile. And Oregon is on it. From Pew’s Stateline Daily: SALEM, Oregon—Evan Burroughs plopped into his 1996 Subaru Outback and pointed to a green plastic box tucked below the steering column. It blinked…