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Study: Taxing services could yield state $6.8B

October 12, 2009
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The non-partisan Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute this morning released a new study exploring the ramifications of expanding the state's sales tax to include services.

In its last fiscal year, Indiana raised $5.7 billion from its 7-percent sales tax, which applies to the sales of most tangible goods, with exemptions for items such as prescription drugs, groceries and newspapers.

According to the IFPI study, Indiana could raise as much as another $6.76 billion annually if it extended its sales tax to include all service transactions. Even if Indiana exempted medical and legal services, Indiana could raise almost $4.5 billion from an expanded sales tax, according to IFPI.

Such figures are sure to appeal to legislators in Indiana's General Assembly, who struggled mightily over recession-driven spending cuts this spring. A special session was ultimately necessary to craft a two-year state budget.

Indiana government's economic picture hasn't improved much since then. On Oct. 8, Gov. Mitch Daniels revealed Indiana's revenue for the quarter ended Sept. 30 was $254 million less than previously predicted, despite the fact that Indiana's revenue forecast has been repeatedly revised downward.

New revenue could help fill such gaps. But an expansion of Indiana's sales tax has many potential drawbacks, which the IFPI study details.

For starters, Indiana's 7-percent state sales tax is already the highest in the Great Lakes region. Extending it might prompt Indiana residents to seek services elsewhere. Indiana is currently tied with Mississippi, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Tennessee for the second-highest sales tax in the nation. Only California's 7.25 percent tax is higher.

The IFPI study points out that the effective sales tax rate is actually higher in some regions because of local sales taxes tacked onto state sales taxes. Alabama, for example, has a 4-percent sales-tax rate, but certain localities there have their own 6-percent sales taxes, creating a 10-percent total tax.

Most states, including Indiana, already tax a few services, such as public utilities, hotel-room rentals and stadium admissions, according to IFPI. But only a few, such as South Dakota, West Virginia, Hawaii, New Mexico, Delaware and Washington, tax more than a handful of services.

Indiana currently ranks 39th among states for the number of services it taxes, taxing 24 of 168 services surveyed by the Federation of Tax Administrators.

The logistics of expanding the sales tax to additional services would be challenging for some businesses. IFPI points out it could be difficult for many businesses to levy such a tax. Businesses that already sell some goods would have an easier time than pure-service providers. For example, a cosmetologist that now collects taxes on the shampoos and conditioners its sells while exempting styling services, would simply have to stop segregating taxable and nontaxable sales.

But other businesses that sell no tangible goods would find they suddenly must establish a relationship with the Indiana Department of Revenue and maintain a whole new type of record. The cost could be significant, IFPI points out, particularly for small businesses.

"Of the major sources of revenue available to the state, broad-based taxation of services is the only one yet to be tapped by the State of Indiana," wrote the IFPI report's author, Earl Ryan. "The revenue possibilities are great, and it would bring a degree of equity to the tax system. At the same time, defining the base would be difficult, both conceptually and politically, and the cost of collecting the tax on the part of both the state and the taxpayers would be significant."

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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