By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: The Nevada Taxpayer’s Association has identified several concerns with an initiative petition to impose a margin tax on Nevada businesses filed by the state teachers union, including the title.
The “Education Initiative” outlining how the 2 percent tax on companies making more than $1 million in gross revenues should more properly be called the “Margin Tax Initiative”, the association said in an email today. The $800 million a year in revenue estimated to be raised from the proposed tax is not directed specifically to public education, the NTA said.
The money would go to the state general fund instead.
But that is just the beginning of the litany of concerns identified by the NTA.
“Proponents claim the $1 million exemption protects small businesses,” the NTA said in its assessment of the proposal. “Not true. The calculation of total revenue pursuant to the provisions of the initiative will put the income of many small businesses over $1 million. Those small businesses will include many franchise operators with a single location, most independently owned gas stations, many medical clinics, ranches and farms and a host of other businesses. In reality it is only the tiny business that will not be captured.”
The concerns are coming forward just as a poll is showing support for the proposal by a nearly 2-to-1 margin among those voters queried. The results of the poll, conducted at the end of May, were reported today by Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston.
Carole Vilardo, president of the NTA, said the association will be reporting even more concerns as businesses begin to analyze the consequences of the tax should it become law. Its first briefing on the proposed tax was issued earlier this month.
The proposal sounds good to voters because it is a tax on business and not on their own pocketbooks, she said.
Tax proponents only want more revenue and they, “don’t care squat about how you get it,” Vilardo said. “They don’t care if it works or not.”
The taxation proposal is modeled on the Texas margin tax and relies also on Assembly Bill 582 of the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature, which Vilardo said was never fully vetted by lawmakers.
Nevada businesses are already struggling, and face increased fees and future unemployment insurance tax hikes to repay the money borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits, she said.
The petition was filed with the Secretary of State’s office on June 6 by the Nevada State Education Association with the support of the Nevada State AFL-CIO.
If the groups can collect 72,352 signatures by Nov. 13 it will go to the 2013 Legislature for review. If the Legislature does not approve the proposal it will go to voters in 2014.
Lynn Warne, president of the NSEA, said when the petition was filed that the intent is to provide more funding for K-12 education.
“We believe that they (voters) are looking for a fair, broad-based tax but they are looking for funding for schools, for kids, to make sure Nevada moves off the bottom in per pupil expenditures,” she said.
The NTA also notes that the tax is not based on the ability to pay.
“As a result many small businesses will find their profits wiped out,” the assessment said. “For any businesses hurt by this economy and struggling to keep their doors open, this tax may prove to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The Texas margin tax also created increases in the cost of compliance for businesses, the NTA said.
“Nevada businesses will face these same increases in addition to paying the tax at a much higher rate,” the NTA said. “This tax is a full employment bill for accountants and tax attorneys.”
Warne said she fully expects a legal challenge to be filed opposing the petition in an effort to derail the signature collection effort.
NTA President Carole Vilardo says the tax proposal appeals to voters because it does not affect them directly:
Vilardo says Nevada businesses are already facing multiple challenges: