Local leaders talk taxes with official

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

SOUTH POINT - If timing is everything, the county chamber's audience was ripe Friday for a taxing discussion - the subject of which might just save you some serious cash.

"If there's one day it's not boring to talk about taxes, it is April 15," said Jim Samuel, executive assistant for business and industry with Gov. Bob Taft's office.

Samuel was the keynote speaker at the monthly luncheon of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce. His purpose was to evangelize a bit on the governor's tax reform plan. The plan is built into his proposed budget.

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Taft's sweeping tax reform plan, a slightly modified version of which has passed the House and will soon be discussed in the Senate, includes four key points:

4Personal income tax rates will be cut by 21 percent across the board with residents earning less than $10,000 per year paying no tax. An average family of four would see a $555 per year savings under the new plan.

4Eliminating the tax on machinery, equipment and inventories. This levels the playing field with surrounding states and makes the area look more attractive to would-be investors, Samuel said.

4Replacing the corporate franchise taxes with a commercial activity tax (CAT). The existing franchise tax often scares away potential developers, Samuel said, despite the state's massive amount of loopholes available to circumvent it. Under the CAT, businesses with less than $1 million in sales would pay only $100 per year while others would be taxed at 0.26 percent, across the board.

4Cutting the statewide sales tax from the current 6-percent mark to 5.5 percent.

Reforming Ohio's tax code is critical, Samuel said, because the state's economy is suffering.

"Ohio didn't come out of the most recent recession as quickly as we have in previous recessions," he said. "Ohio used to lead the nation in personal income, at 12 percent above the national average. Today it's 10 percent below the national average."

To put that change in perspective, Samuel conjectured on what that means to the state economically.

"If Ohioans were making the average national level today, we'd have an additional $1.7 billion in state taxes," he said, pointing to what the impact that would have on the current budget deficit. "It wouldn't exist, purely on that one point."

The goal of the tax reform plan, Samuel said, is to help create economic development and job creation in the state.

"From an economic development standpoint, there is no good tax," he said. "But if you look at it that we need a tax base, the commercial activity tax is the most fair. It's a fair tax that doesn't distinguish between a big business and a small business."

Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the chamber and the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, the county's economic development engine, said eliminating the corporate franchise tax is critical.

"The hardest thing you have to do is to get someone to look at you," he said, referring to the recruitment of new industries. "The problem is when a corporation looks at Ohio and sees the corporate franchise tax rate, they don't consider you."

"It has been called one of the most complicated taxes in the country," Samuel said of Ohio's current corporate franchise tax.

"Because of all the loopholes the tax actually generated little money. But what is generated is generally paid by small and medium size businesses who generally don't spend tens of thousands of dollars on accountants to help them find the loopholes."

For more information on the tax plan visit www.jobsforohio.com.