Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature are searching for ways to fill budget holes in future years. One way is to review and improve the Kansas state and local tax system. Property, sales and income taxes are the main sources of revenue in the system. These officials need to ask whether the system complies with the following basic state and local tax policy principles.
Accountability: Does it identify for the public those who are responsible for the calculation, payment and collection of taxes?
Adequacy: Does it raise enough revenue in the short and long run to finance state and local services and emergency reserves?
Broadness: Does it contain few tax exclusions, exemptions, credits and other provisions that narrow the tax base and cause higher tax rates for taxpayers who do not benefit from these tax loopholes?
Convenience: Does it minimize the time, effort and cost which individuals and businesses spend to comply with tax laws?
Efficiency: Does it have administrative costs that are low in comparison to collected tax revenues?
Equity: Does it treat people at the same income level and at different income levels fairly?
Exportability: Does it require individuals and businesses located in other states and who benefit from Kansas and local services to pay their fair share?
Neutrality: Does it avoid interfering with investment and spending decisions of businesses and individuals?
Transparency: Does it clarify for the public the methods of taxation and total amounts of revenue collected from individuals and businesses?
To help fill the budget holes, Kansans need to ask the governor and their legislators to pay particular attention to "no" answers to questions about tax policy principles.
Allyn O. Lockner,
Nick Schwien is managing editor at The Hays Daily News.