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TAXWatch: Say It’s a Tax!

The news recently mentioned a lawsuit that the City and County of Honolulu, now joined by the other three counties, has leveled against our state government regarding the HSTA-sponsored constitutional amendment.  The counties, obviously not overjoyed at the prospect of the State slapping a surcharge on their primary source of revenue, want the courts to void the ballot question. They …

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TAXWatch: Taking Exemptions Without Really Knowing

These days, our General Excise Tax contains exemptions and reduced rates that are supposed to reflect commercial reality but often contain leaps of faith. One common example is the wholesale rate. If I sell you a mango that you then resell to someone else, then I need to pay not the 4% or 4.5% retail rate, but the lower 0.5% …

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TAXWatch: Raising Taxes Means Decreasing Prices?

I’ve often heard the argument that taxes on Hawaii real property are too low.  Because the taxes are low, the argument goes, prices are driven sky high, leading to economic pandemonium. But is that really true?  Maybe it’s just a question of semantics. Suppose I agree to sell you a house for $500,000.  But we aren’t able to get our …

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TAXWatch: Cashing In on Production Credits

In this space, I often have unflattering things to say about tax credits.  Every year, legislators propose tax credits for some little-noticed niche in an industry.  Sometimes the credit is well thought through, and sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes the desired effect can be accomplished more cheaply and simply, and sometimes the justification for the credit is sketchy at best. For …

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Weekends Safe Once Again, Maybe

Back in 2014, we wrote in this space about a nasty Honolulu City & County rule involving real property tax appeals.  That rule said that if you as a property owner didn’t like your real property tax assessment and you wanted to appeal it, the appeal had better be in by January 15th.  It didn’t matter if the government was …

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TAXWatch: Wayfair – Playing Catch-Up

This week, we continue with our coverage of Wayfair, the U.S. Supreme Court case that held online sellers can be made to collect state sales taxes even if they don’t have a physical presence in that state. Here in Hawaii, Act 41 of 2018 was fashioned after the South Dakota threshold and says that if a business has 200 transactions …

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TAXWatch: The Wayfair Switch in Time

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Wayfair v. South Dakota case.  It was a huge turning point in constitutional law involving the ability of states to tax “online sellers” such as Amazon, Newegg, and Wayfair. “Yeah,” you might say.  “I know about online sellers because last April, Amazon started charging Hawaii GET, so I had to pay …

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TAXWatch: Who Can We Beat Up with Property Tax?

The ongoing furor in Honolulu over the extent to which the rail project is adequately funded, or lack thereof, and the possibility of new state-mandated property taxes to fund education lead us to look at how we can or should make property tax classifications. Real property tax is currently a county tax.  It applies to real property that is owned …

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TAXWatch: HB2748

House Bill 2748, which will become law soon, is sometimes referred to as the “Bob Nakata bill” after the former legislator, now reverend, who was one of the bill’s champions.  It aims to advance the goal of providing “affordable housing” in our island state. One part of the bill appropriates $200 million to the Rental Housing Revolving Fund, which, according …

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TAXWatch: It’s Not Easy Bein’ an Employer

It’s tough being an employer, especially here in Hawai`i. If I am a business, or even a nonprofit, in Hawai`i and I want to hire paid staff, there are all kinds of things to consider. Before I hire the worker, I need to comply with laws saying what I can and can’t ask the prospective employee.  I might get in …

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