Friday, March 26, 2010

How Will Texas Tax Us?

As it gets closer to the 82nd Legislative Session in Austin I think we will be seeing more and more talk about how the legislature is going to pass a budget that is going to meet the needs of Texans in a year when revenues are definitely off.

Revenue is down. People aren’t buying things so much anymore. Texas, which has no state income tax, relies on a variety of ways to pay for all of the things it provides.

I have already mentioned in another posting that several school districts around the state are having to close schools and lay off teachers. Ostensibly this is because the legislature has failed to fully fund education in its budget process over the past few years. Further cuts in education funding could make matters even worse.

So I wonder whether what we are going to be seeing is an increase in fees and an decrease in the number of things that are currently on the sales tax exemption list.

Because even Jesus Christ himself won’t save a Texas state legislator if they increase the tax rates.

So then I ask, how will Texas tax us in the future? To find out who is exempt from paying state sales taxes right now, there is no better place to look than right here in the Texas Administrative Code.

Just about all of the ones listed there are either non-profit organizations or governmental entities. There are other things, like food, education and prescription medicine which seem to be hands off for now.

One area is to tax energy consumption as found here.

Yes, you already pay taxes and fees for using natural gas and electricity. But some organizations don’t.

The following types of organizations are exempt from paying sales tax on energy that they consume:

  • Manufacturing Operations of all types (including film makers and video game producers as well as Food and Beverage Processors and Bakeries)
  • Nursing Homes, Alzheimer Units, Assisted Living and Retirement Facilities
  • RV and Mobile Home Parks (extended stay)
  • Apartment Complexes & Buildings and Condominiums
  • Agricultural and Horticultural Operations
  • Golf Courses (charging up the golf carts)
  • Repairs to railroad "rolling stock", jet aircraft engines, and national defense related "platforms"
  • Oil and Gas and Mining operations

Here’s the rub. Just about every one of these organizations has lobbyists that will scream bloody murder if the legislature even contemplates taking them off the exemption list.

Every one of them.

There is talk of charging sales taxes on junk food and soda pop, explaining all of those anti-sales tax ads on television of late, sponsored by the soda pop companies.

If you sell over $1,000 of gold, silver, platinum or foreign currency in a single transaction, that is also tax free in Texas.

Ending that exemption should go over like a lead balloon as well because the only people I know who engage in that kind of transaction, at that level, are the rich and Jesus knows we don’t tax the rich in Texas.

No, I am afraid that wherever you look you are going to find sales tax exemptions in areas that someone is going to vehemently object to should that exemption come under review by a legislature intent on raising some revenue.

The reality is, Texas doesn’t like taxing and simply loves tax exemptions.

So here is my modest proposal: go after the problem by raising fees. But the problem again is which fees should be raised? Texans hate paying fees more than they hate paying taxes.
The answer is simple. Go after the one area in Texas society that is powerless to defend itself: Tattoo and Body Piercing Parlors. And why not start charging a license fee to all of these people who make a living piercing all of those ears?

I think I am on to something.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of removing exemptions but refuse to defend entities that continue to issue bonds and exceed reasonable spending limits while hiding bond monies in "contingency funds". When the laws are changed to hold the entities accountable for what they sell to the public and not allow over-budgeting on these (accountability) then I will support them. Spending is a problem and we need people in office that will keep a very close eye on it.