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Income Tax Surcharge Would Harm Business

Posted by John Regan on Jun 14, 2017 2:07:38 PM

We call ourselves a commonwealth.

From the preamble of the Massachusetts Constitution:

“The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people.”

This notion, affirmed in the language of Article XLIV of the Constitution, states that taxes “shall be levied at a uniform rate throughout the commonwealth upon incomes derived from the same class of property.” Everyone is treated the same.

Now the Legislature is considering a petition to amend the language of Article XLIV in a manner that would increase by 80 percent the taxes paid on incomes in excess of $1 million, adjusted annually by the same method used for federal income tax brackets to reflect any cost-of-living increases. According to the ballot question language, every dollar of income more than $1 million would face a tax of 9.1 percent.

Those earning $1 million of income per year currently pay 95 percent more tax than those making $50,000 annually - an income of $50,000 generates a tax obligation of $2,550, while the $1 million dollar income generates $51,000 of income tax (all things being equal).

Some additional facts to note:

  • This significant new tax burden will fall on individuals and certain business entities paying taxes at the individual rate. It is hard to imagine that this new obligation will not impede investment, employment, and certain locational decisions.
  • The Department of Revenue estimates (with some assumptions) that the proposal will generate between $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion, with $1.9 billion identified as the median.
  • The $1.9 billion tax increase will be paid by roughly 19,500 filers, 80 percent of whom are anticipated to file with some business income.
  • Those 19,500 filers represent half of 1 percent of all tax returns filed with the Department of Revenue.
  • Eighty-six percent of the affected taxpayers will be married couples filing jointly, and 11 percent will be individual filers with earnings of more than $1 million.

Advocates for this constitutional amendment focus on the revenue derived therefrom rather than the uneven or inequitable method of its generation. The amendment requires that generated revenues shall be used:

“…to provide the resources for quality public education and affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation, all revenues received in accordance with this paragraph shall be expended, subject to appropriation, only for these purposes.”

However, Section 2 of Article XLVIII of the Constitution clearly enumerates so-called “Excluded Matters” by stating in part: “No measure… that makes a specific appropriation of money from the treasury of the commonwealth shall be proposed by an initiative petition…” For a petition to be constitutionally valid, the Legislature must retain the ability to use tax revenues for any public purpose the Legislature deems appropriate.

It follows that a “yes” vote necessarily diminishes the authority and responsibility invested in the members of the Massachusetts General Court. Our Constitution gives members of the House and Senate the sole authority to authorize how tax revenues are appropriated. Any assertion by the petition's proponents about limiting how the money is used is folly and prohibited by the Constitution. By passing the amendment, legislators abdicate their constitutionally protected authority.

The 4,000 member employers of Associated Industries of Massachusetts therefore urge a “No” vote on this measure.

Before we approve a policy that raises so much from so few we must ask – does this imbalance make the commonwealth a better, or a worse place?

We would suggest that it makes Massachusetts an unfair place.

Topics: Taxes, Income Surtax

The Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap - Myths and Facts, Part 4

Posted by John Regan on Jun 13, 2017 9:08:03 AM

Editor's note - Beacon HIll lawmakers will vote on Wednesday whether to place on the 2018 statewide ballot a proposed constitutional amendement that would impose a four percentage-point surtax (an 80 percent increase) on incomes of more than $1 million. AIM opposes the Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap and will look at the myths and facts surrounding the issue each day through Wednesday.

Myth: High income earners in Massachusetts are not paying their “fair share” to support the cost of state government programs and investments.

Fact: The existing Massachusetts income tax is highly progressive, with the highest income earners paying the highest share of taxes and the highest effective tax rates.

According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the top 20 percent of earners already pay 73 percent of all the income taxes paid to the state. (The top 1 percent of earners alone account for 28 percent of all income taxes paid.) Furthermore, the top 20 percent of earners had an average effective tax rate of 4.7 percent, nearly double the average effective rates paid by the lowest 40 percent of earners.

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Myth: The proposal will help to narrow wealth and income gaps and enhance our status as a true “commonwealth.”

Fact: The proposal is intentionally divisive and misleading. Special interest groups are using the popular vote and their ability to spend unlimited campaign funds to advance their own narrow self-interests by targeting a minority of citizens to foot the bill.

The proposal will not increase any citizen’s income, lower anyone’s tax rate, provide any new tax credit or deduction or provide any guaranteed benefit to anyone. There is no guarantee the revenue raised will benefit lower income citizens-or any citizen at any income level in any way.

Topics: Taxes, Income Surtax

The Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap - Myths and Facts, Part 3

Posted by John Regan on Jun 12, 2017 2:32:49 PM

Editor's note - Beacon HIll lawmakers will vote on Wednesday whether to place on the 2018 statewide ballot a proposed constitutional amendement that would impose a four percentage-point surtax (an 80 percent increase) on incomes of more than $1 million. AIM opposes the Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap and will look at the myths and facts surrounding the issue each day through Wednesday.

Myth: Without new tax revenue, Massachusetts’ economy will suffer.

Craneandworkerssmall.jpgFact: Massachusetts is thriving right now and our economy is expanding. Unemployment rates remain low and state tax revenues are at an all-time high.

During the past 20 years, Massachusetts has taken positive steps to shed much of its “Taxachusetts” moniker and high-tax brand. Adoption of the proposed tax increase would be a damaging step backward for the state. It will send the wrong message to many job creators and entrepreneurs: namely if you come to Massachusetts and succeed, we’ll punish you.

Myth: The new tax will help stabilize and strengthen the state’s financial foundation.

Fact: The proposal would inject significant instability into the state’s finances by adding billions of dollars in new, permanent special-interest spending to the state budget based upon on a volatile, non-recurring revenue stream.

Other states that have made the same mistake have found themselves in dire budgetary crises when estimated revenue failed to materialize. This year, Connecticut budget makers saw anticipated tax revenues drop by a staggering $450 million, putting the lie to a long history of promises that new and additional taxes on high income earners would solve the state’s fiscal challenges.

On April 28, Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy was forced to acknowledge the state’s failed policy of trying to support ever-increasing state spending a too-narrow group of high income earners, publicly admitting "Connecticut is too dependent on our highest-income earners for our revenue.”

(Sources: Maryland Public Policy Institute; Hartford Courant 4.28.17)

Myth: Impacted taxpayers will remain in Massachusetts and pay the increased taxes.

Fact: The recent experiences of other states indicate that retirees and high-income earners often relocate to lower tax states in response to increased taxes.

Within three years of Maryland enacting its “millionaire tax,” 40 percent of the state’s seven-figure earners were gone from the tax rolls - and so was $1.7 billion from the state tax base.

Similarly, in 2010 Boston College researchers released a report on the migration of wealthy households to and from New Jersey. They concluded that wealthier New Jersey households did in fact consider the high-earner taxes when deciding whether to move to or remain in New Jersey.

The researchers’ data analysis found that from 1999 to 2003 - before the millionaires’ tax was imposed- there was a net influx of $98 billion in household wealth into the state. After the tax was implemented, an increasing number of wealthy families left the state, resulting in a loss of $70 billion in wealth.

(Source: Wall Street Journal, 2.7.12; Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College)

Topics: Taxes, Income Surtax

The Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap - Myths and Facts, Part 2

Posted by John Regan on Jun 9, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Editor's note - Beacon HIll lawmakers will vote on Wednesday whether to place on the 2018 statewide ballot a proposed constitutional amendement that would impose a four percentage-point surtax (an 80 percent increase) on incomes of more than $1 million. AIM opposes the Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap and will look at the myths and facts surrounding the issue each day through next Wednesday.

Myth: The new tax revenue will be dedicated to funding only investments in public education and transportation.

Finance.pen.small.jpgFact: There is no guarantee that any additional funds from the increased income tax would go to education, transportation or any other dedicated purpose. Any new tax revenue will go straight to the state’s general fund to be appropriated by the legislature for any purpose whatsoever.

The proponents are asking taxpayers to trust future legislatures to keep this spending promise. Unfortunately, the legislature has a long history of diverting the flow of funds that taxpayers believed were “dedicated” for a specific purpose. For example, the leader of a Massachusetts anti-smoking non-profit estimates that 99 percent of $851 million in state tobacco taxes and related revenues have been diverted away from the tobacco cessation programs they were “dedicated” to support.

Similarly, the legislature has previously diverted tens of millions of dollars from the Renewable Energy Trust Fund and the Workforce Training Fund to satisfy unrelated spending demands.

(Source: Lawrence Eagle Tribune, 1.27.13)

Myth: This new tax will support approximately $2 billion in additional state spending.

Fact: It is unlikely that actual revenues from the new tax will be remotely close to the $2 billion proponents estimate.

Many of the individuals who are most likely to be impacted by the tax are highly mobile and their income can fluctuate significantly from year to year. Any revenue generated by the new tax will be volatile at best. When these taxpayers leave Massachusetts, the state will lose significant revenue it would otherwise have captured.

Maryland estimated its 2007 “millionaire tax” surcharge would raise $330 million. Instead it raised just $120 million, leaving state lawmakers - who had immediately locked in $330 million in additional, permanent spending - with a gaping budget deficit. Researchers also estimate Maryland lost $5 billion in personal income tax collections from 2000 to 2010 due in part to high income individuals migrating to states with lower taxes.

Connecticut first adopted an income tax in 1991 and the state taxes high income earners at a rate of 6.99 percent, more than double the rate applied to the lowest tax bracket. In the past 25 years, Connecticut lost more than $12 billion in net adjusted gross income to other states.

(Sources: Maryland Public Policy Institute; the Tax Foundation; the Yankee Institute for Public Policy; Forbes.)

Topics: Income Surtax, tax

The Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap - Myths and Facts, Part 1

Posted by John Regan on Jun 8, 2017 1:26:49 PM

Editor's note - Beacon HIll lawmakers will vote on Wednesday whether to place on the 2018 statewide ballot a proposed constitutional amendement that would impose a four percentage-point surtax (an 80 percent increase) on incomes of more than $1 million. AIM opposes the Constitutional Amendment Tax Trap and will look at the myths and facts surrounding the issue each day through next Wednesday.

Myth: Massachusetts has a revenue crisis and cannot support the cost of essential state government services without new taxes.

Fact: Massachusetts is one of the highest spending states in the nation on a per capita basis. Revenue collection and state spending in the commonwealth have increased significantly during the past 15 years. In that time period the state budget has doubled to more than $40 billion dollars, a growth rate that far outpaces inflation.

State Budget by Year 2017.jpg

Massachusetts has a spending problem, not a revenue crisis. Fiscal Year 2016 state revenues were $4.7 billion more than they were just five years earlier. In just the past five years, Massachusetts has increased the sales tax rate by 25 percent, raised the gas tax by 14 percent and adopted major policy changes, including casino gaming, designed to raise billions of dollars in new revenue each year. 

Revenue Trends-1.jpg

Myth: Massachusetts under-invests in its K-12 public educational system.

Fact: Massachusetts taxpayers support the seventh highest level of per-pupil spending in the country with an average expenditure of $15,000 per student each year. Massachusetts students perform better than their peers across the country, evidenced by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) eighth-grade student performance in Science (1st), Reading (tie 1st) and Math (tie 4th). (Source: MATTERS.mhtc.org; NCES)

Myth: Massachusetts under-invests in its transportation infrastructure.

Fact: Year after year, Massachusetts spends significantly more per mile on highways than nearly every other state in the country. Currently, Massachusetts spends more annually to build and maintain each mile of highway than 47 other states and four times the national average. Yet the condition of our roads and bridges is among the worst in the country.

The state Department of Transportation and MBTA acknowledge they are unable to effectively spend the capital funds already available to them.

According to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack “for years the T [has been] leaving hundreds of millions on the table, failing to spend it on desperately needed maintenance and repair projects. The T is like a bathtub full of holes. Turning the spigot to let more water in is not going to fill up the bathtub. We need to fix the holes.”

Before any additional funds are expended, the state transportation system needs to adopt significant additional structural and management reforms and improvements.

State Highway Spending.jpg

(Sources: MATTERS.mhtc.org; the Reason Foundation; Boston Globe, 9.2.15)  

 

Topics: Taxes, Income Surtax

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