Sales Tax Revenues, State Economies, Lotteries and Fairness

Congress is in recess and returns next week. The Daily Deduction comes to you today, and will resume its regular schedule on Monday, April 28.

A penny for your roads in the Show Me State. Missouri may increase its sales tax by one cent to fund transportation projects. A constitutional amendment passed the Missouri House and a key Senate committee. Full Senate approval would put the measure on the November ballot. The tax could raise $800 million annually over ten years; after that the tax would need to be renewed by voters. Every bit helps, especially given Congressional inaction on the dwindling Highway Trust Fund.

Amazon will soon start collecting sales taxes in the Sunshine State. About to open two new distribution centers in Florida, Amazon will be begin collecting sales tax on purchases as soon as May 1. “‘We’re estimating about $80 million for the first year,” said Crystal Laake with the Florida Retail Federation.”

There’s no business like show business in the Golden State. Film and television production is not what it used to be in Hollywood and across California. To encourage  the entertainment industry to come back, some California legislators want the state to  provide as much as $2 billion in new tax breaks. But other lawmakers question whether these subsidies are worth the lost revenue. The answer remains: Probably not.

For more on states and their economies: The latest edition of TPC’s State and Local Finance Initiative’s State Economic Monitor shows continued slow economic recovery. State unemployment rates have not increased, but long-term unemployment remains above average in most states. Still, states predict they’ll enjoy an average 3.6 percent growth in general fund revenues in fiscal year 2015.

Flash trading fairness: Follow the French? TPC’s Steve Rosenthal examines tax alternatives for high-frequency trades. The French have figured out a way to do it. Steve concludes that “a properly-structured high-frequency tax would cap the value of speed—to end the race to spend billions to save milliseconds. It also would charge traders to tease information out of investors.”

Expense capital investments or deduct interest, not both. If lawmakers want to allow firms to immediately deduct the full cost of their capital investments, they should repeal their deduction for interest costs, argues Howard Gleckman in his latest post. “When a firm can expense its capital costs, the tax rate on that investment is zero. If the business can also deduct interest, it is paying a negative tax on that equipment—effectively receiving an investment subsidy from the government.”

“You win… a new car!” if you submit VAT receipts. Slovakia has a novel approach to jump-starting its stalling revenues from the value-added tax. Firms routinely under-report sales to save on the levy. So instead of chasing fraud with expensive auditors or pursuing legal claims, the government has created a consumer lottery. When buyers submit receipts they are eligible to win money, cars, or even a chance to play on a TV game show. And the receipts give the government the paper trail it needs. Portugal started a similar lottery last Thursday. The VAT tax gap in the European Union hit $267 billion in 2011.

International tax scrutiny prompts a Starbucks move. Lawmakers in the United Kingdom raised an eyebrow at Starbucks‘ low UK tax payments last year. This year, Starbucks will move its European headquarters from the Netherlands to Chiswick, west London. Its UK tax bill will rise, but its global tax bill won’t.

 

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