Tax Executive Institute

Tax Legislation: Are We Asking The Right Questions?

State tax developments are everywhere. They happen daily. The question is - are we just reporting them or are we challenging them?

This legislative season has seen crazy proposals to raise revenue, balance budgets - all influenced by political pressures and confusion. We have policy organizations submitting reports and studies asserting that certain proposals are ridiculous or would either be unfair or detrimental to the state and specific taxpayers. This complexity not only applies to state tax legislatures, but also the federal government - as we know. The problem is that states generally have to balance their budgets every year to operate (although apparently that doesn't apply to Illinois).

One thing I noticed is that state legislative sessions are focused on raising revenue. Always asking what can or should be taxed? What new forms of business do we need to tax? What tax revenue are we missing out on?

I think those are the wrong questions. The questions we should be asking are:

  • What services should the state or federal government provide?
  • To what extent ($$) should the government provide those services?
  • How do we prioritize those services?
  • What is the cost/benefit of providing those services?
  • At what point does the provision of those services cause detriment to citizens and our economy? 
  • What oversight will each service have to avoid waste and efficient use of taxpayer dollars?

We don't always need more revenue. We need to rethink and revamp the purpose of government. Our governments should be lean and efficient. They should provide us with what we need most - not more or less. It's not about tax revenue, it's about efficient government. It's about the health and wealth of our country - financially, physically and spiritually. 

If we never ask the right questions, we won't get the right answers.

TEI Says Retroactive Legislation Disrupts Taxpayer Expectations

On September 20, 2016, Tax Executives Institute, Inc. (TEI) issued a new policy statement on retroactive tax legislation. The policy statement takes the position that sound tax policy and administration require governments to provide taxpayers with certainty and fairness, and these principles are not satisfied when legislatures are permitted to enact retroactive tax legislation without meaningful limits.

In TEI's statement it asserts that allowing retroactive legislation to overrule a judicial decision "disrupts taxpayer expectations." I agree. As I have stated before in several blog posts, retroactive legislation creates unnecessary uncertainty, and unintended consequences. States have an obligation to create a stable and reasonable compliance environment that doesn't keep taxpayers guessing.