Zionsville Times Sentinel

Commentary

July 2, 2014

Simplifying taxes is not so simple at all

Pushing his idea that a simpler tax system can boost Indiana's economy, Gov. Mike Pence invited prominent conservative economists to a closed-to-the-public conference this past week.

Keynote speakers at the daylong Tax Competitiveness and Simplification Conference included former Reagan advisor and tax-cut champion Arthur Laffer, who delivered entertaining presentations to a mixed audience of business leaders, public policy wonks and politicians.

The economists' message, later video-streamed on a state website, was in essence that simply doing away with onerous taxes will go a long way toward promoting development and prosperity.

Their words won applause. But some less well-attended presentations throughout the conference belied the day's theme. As it turns out, there's nothing simple about tax simplification.

That may have been best illustrated during a session on local tax revenue.

A panel of speakers, which included local economic development experts and Indiana economists, spent much of their time talking about the proposal floated by Pence last year -- and still alive -- to simplify the tax system by doing away with the business personal property tax.

Revenue from that tax, which is collected on an array of business equipment and inventory, provides $1 billion to local governments, schools and libraries. But Pence sees it as a burden to businesses, especially equipment-rich manufacturers, who'd rather keep or reinvest the money.

One big problem with simply doing away with the tax is that neither the Republican Pence nor the GOP-controlled Legislature has come up with a way to replace the lost revenues.

See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.

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