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Community Viewpoint

TAXWatch: An Opportunity for Opportunity Zones

Dear Governor Ige: Whatever you may think of President Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress, they have thrown an opportunity our way, and you need to take action very soon—by March 21, 2018, to be exact—to take advantage of it. The Trump tax overhaul act, sometimes known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, provides two main incentives to encourage investment …

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TAXWatch: Groundhog Day in the Hawai`i Senate

You may remember Groundhog Day, the 1993 film starring Bill Murray.  In it, Murray played a Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, PA, found himself caught in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. On February 28, I was in a hearing in the Senate money committee, testifying …

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TAXWatch: By the Way, Could We Have $50 Million More?

Our Legislature is now in session, and one of the big functions of the money committees – the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Finance – is to balance the state budget.  The Governor submits a budget to start with, the Council on Revenues weighs in with how much money the State is expected to …

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A Penny for Education

One of the bills making its way through our legislative system this session is one that would create a special fund for public education, and then funnel to that fund twenty-five percent of all the money that our General Excise Tax brings in. “25% of the four percent tax is just a penny out of every dollar,” proponents of the …

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Trump Tax In Hawai`i?

One of the more visible tax issues that our lawmakers will be thinking about this session is how to adapt the new federal tax law changes, sometimes called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and what we have been calling Trump Tax, to Hawaii. Each year, our Department of Taxation is required to consider the federal tax changes that have …

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Community Viewpoint: Failed housing policy, in perpetuity

Following a decision by the owner of a Lahaina “affordable housing” complex to sell its 142 units at market prices starting in 2019 — three decades earlier than expected — there is movement at the Maui County Council to require that all of Maui’s so-called affordable housing to remain so in perpetuity. Councilwoman Elle Cochran introduced a measure in October …

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The Value of a Refundable Credit

In the 2017 legislative session, our legislature passed an earned income tax credit (EITC), which its supporters maintain is the best solution to lift families out of poverty since sliced bread.  At the Department of Taxation‘s urging, however, the EITC was made nonrefundable.  Advocates clearly didn’t like that, and are already imploring the 2018 legislature to make the credit refundable. …

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How Much Does a Crosswalk Cost?

Most of us are very familiar with crosswalks and traffic signals.  We pass a few of them every day.  We might get stopped by a red light from one of them.  But have we ever stopped to think how much one of these things cost? One of the bills introduced in the recent legislative session, Senate Bill 2004, tells the …

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Oops! Math Error!

The National Taxpayer Advocate recently produced a “Purple Book” containing her top 50 recommendations for the IRS.  One of them concerned “math error authority,” which brought to mind one of the failings in Hawaii’s tax system. On the federal side, disputes between the IRS and taxpayers play out through a lengthy process.  The IRS proposes an assessment, the taxpayer responds …

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TrumpTax, Part 2

One of the new, key components of Trump Tax is a provision important to the vast majority of small businesses.  Practitioners may know it as the Section 199A deduction. Under Trump Tax, corporations that used to see a maximum tax rate of 35% got that rate slashed to 21%.  About 75% of businesses, however, are not taxed at the corporate …

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