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Task Force Working on Tax Reform

Task Force Working on Tax Reform

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Richard Piatt ReportingUtah lawmakers are getting serious about making changes to how you pay taxes. A task force is studying how much tax you pay for everything from food to real estate.

We're all so used to it, we don't usually think about tax that's tacked on to practically everything we buy. But it adds up -- Sales, Property, and Income taxes are all cornerstones of Utah's state budget, and take a chunk out of our spending money. The system of collecting those taxes is not perfect. In fact, there will be a big push for significant change as soon as next year.

Starting now, Utah lawmakers are taking on the huge task of figuring out a way to make tax collection more fair and simple.

Rep. Wayne Harper, Tax Reform Task Force Co-Chair: "We've got to change the tax system to make it responsive for the 21st century."

For policy makers there's good reason for revamping the system: stability. When the economy goes bad, and people stop buying things, state revenues go down. When it's good, the opposite happens. Much of Utah's economy is now service-oriented -- health care, legal services, even haircuts-- that aren't taxed. The current tax system is based on a manufacturing--places like Geneva Steel, for example, which is dying and doesn't bring in nearly what it used to.

Governor Olene Walker introduced her own tax reform proposal before she left office. Her plan broadens the tax base, but lowers tax rates, a controversial starting point for the new task force.

Sen John Valentine, Senate President: "Taxing services, or income without deductions, those are going to be controversial, and yet, those are starting points for our discussion."

There isn't much time to get a proposal ready for next year's legislature. The people on the task force will be spending a big chunk of their summer getting a proposal ready.

Simplicity and fairness--that's the goal of this task force. But it remains to be seen what kind of changes they make that determines who pays and how much they pay.

An example of how serious the Legislature is about reforming the tax system: Last year it budgeted 100-thousand dollars to pay for public hearings, experts and travel over two years.

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