Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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December 22, 2013

Tax reform had unintended consequences

Saying it’s the one glaring exception to Indiana’s generally favorable business tax climate, Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce are embarking on a quest to end Indiana’s business personal property tax.

Pence has been using the word “reform” because it’s certain that this will be a shift, not a net tax savings. That means that most individuals will be seeing higher taxes to make up for business paying less property tax. The gamble is that the resulting tax climate will spur investment, and that incomes will rise to offset the tax shift.

The irony is that Gov. Mitch Daniels’ 2008 property tax reform is in part responsible for what the chamber is calling a skewed tax burden.

Bill Waltz, vice president of tax and fiscal policy for the chamber, said the 2008 reforms resulted in a $3 billion shift from residential homesteads onto industrial and commercial property.

In Howard County, homesteads and business both have about the same share of the overall assessed value in the county (42 percent each), Waltz said.

Business, however, shoulders 65 percent of the total (personal and real estate) property tax burden here, while homesteads pay 15 percent, he said.

“It’s not just personal property tax, it’s property tax as a whole,” which is causing the imbalance for business, he said.

Property tax caps are enshrined in the constitution, so there’s no going back on that deal. But Waltz said he thinks there are enough efficiencies to be gained at the local level to make up for the loss of business personal property, without cutting services.

That’s where the chamber and the local elected officials in Howard County will disagree, and Waltz said he understands there has to be replacement revenue to make it work.

State Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, has already had that conversation with Pence’s people, and says he’s been informed that the state doesn’t have enough money to make up for the estimated $1 billion in local revenue loss from a full repeal.

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