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Tom Yamachika

Tom Yamachika
Tom Yamachika is the President of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, a private, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to informing the taxpaying public about the finances of our state and local governments in Hawaii. Tom is also a tax attorney in solo practice and has been since early 2013. Prior to 2013, he was with the accounting firm Accuity LLP, which was formed in 2006 from the Honolulu office of Coopers & Lybrand (which later became PricewaterhouseCoopers). Before that, he served as an Administrative Rules Specialist in the State of Hawaii Department of Taxation from 1994 to 1996, where he drafted rules, interpretive releases, and legislation on several different state taxes. Prior to that, he practiced litigation and tax law with Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright in Honolulu.

VIEWPOINT: Incentives for Retirement Savings

During the past few months, the Tax Review Commission, a group provided for in our state constitution that is supposed to meet once every five years, has been busy at work. The Commission is tasked with recommending changes to our tax laws, and its consultant has recommended limiting the pension exemption that we now have in our state income tax …

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Harbors Are for Soaking the Taxpayer – Again and Again

In a prior article, we reported that last December, administrative rules were finalized that wrought significant increases in fees charged by the Department of Transportation, Harbors Division.  Those fees increased 17% beginning on February 1, 2017; they will increase another 15% on October 1, 2017; they will increase another 15% on July 1, 2018; and they will increase on July …

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Legislature with ‘U R’ Missing

This week, I was inspired by a sign on the First Baptist Church on Pensacola Street here in Honolulu.  Their sign read, “CH _ _ C H – what’s missing?   U R !” If you take away “U R” from “CHURCH,” you are left with “CHCH,” which isn’t even a word.  Apparently, the point there is that the church isn’t …

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Rail: I Dunno About TAT

We are getting closer to the special session that our Legislature has scheduled to continue its discussion about funding Honolulu rail.  During this past session, the House and Senate were unable to agree on a common version of a bill to continue rail funding. The two chambers disagreed about whether to use our Transient Accommodations Tax (“TAT”).  The TAT is …

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The Grand Skim of Things, Part 3

We continue our discussion about the 5% charge assessed against special funds in Hawaii government, also known as the “Central Services Skim.”  Last week, we examined the exemptions from the skim and the danger that the funds who are paying the assessments can claim that they are being gouged.  This week, we look at the one State department that has …

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The Grand Skim of Things, Part 2

Last week, we began a discussion about the 5% charge that is assessed against the “special funds” in Hawaii government, which we called the “Central Services Skim.”  For the last few fiscal years, the Central Services Skim has redirected about $45 million a year from the special funds to the state general fund, ostensibly to pay for shared services such …

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The Grand Skim of Things, Part 1

In this space, we have often spoken of funding government with “special funds.”  Special funds are pots of money dedicated to a specified purpose.  Money in the fund can be spent for the specified purpose without going through the general appropriation process at the Legislature.  Agencies love them because they can spend money without interference by meddlesome lawmakers.  Supporters of …

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Universal Basic Income: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat?”

Growing up in these islands, I always heard the part-Hawaiian proverb that describes a very simple work ethic: “No hanahana, no kaukau.”  Meaning: if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Recently, some very notable people including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have been championing the idea of “universal basic income,” which basically is a payment from the government to individuals simply …

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Hawaii Earned Income Tax Credit: Devil in the Details

On July 10, 2017, Governor Ige proudly signed House Bill 209, a bill that establishes a Hawaii earned income tax credit (HI-EITC for short).  The EITC has been described as “a federal tax credit that helps families work their way into the middle class.  Since its inception in 1975, the federal EITC has been hailed as the most effective anti-poverty …

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