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BOE Member George Runner

July Sales Tax Revenue Surpassed Projections

Although I continue to remain deeply concerned about California’s economic recovery, I’m pleased to report that our state’s budget picture—at least when it comes to sales tax—isn’t quite as bleak as it might seem.

On Tuesday, the State Controller reported that sales and use tax general fund revenues for the month of July were $977.6 million, 12.5% below the Department of Finance projection of $1.12 billion.

However, BOE actually received $1.64 billion in July, more than half a billion dollars above the budget projection cited by the Controller.

The competing revenue numbers are the result of two different methods of accounting. As required by statute, the Controller looks at “money in the bank,” which does not include pending deposits. BOE numbers reflect “money in the door,” which includes all payments—including those received but not yet deposited.

The last few days of July saw more than $600 million in sales tax revenue received by BOE. These dollars were not included in the Controller’s report because they had not yet been deposited into state coffers. Retail… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

A Victory for California’s Small Businesses

It’s not every day a government program becomes less burdensome for small business owners and entrepreneurs, but it can happen.

In my recent op-ed “A Qualified Mess,” I described the many problems plaguing the “Qualified Purchaser Program” — a use tax collection program targeting small business owners. I invited impacted business owners to send me their feedback via a survey on my website, and I shared this feedback with my colleagues and BOE staff.

I also joined small business owners and taxpayer advocates at a press conference urging reforms to this program. This NFIB-sponsored event was well-attended and led to stories by Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Government is greediest actor in “Amazon Tax” debate

Editorial boards and newspaper columnists are quick to assign “greed” as the motive driving Amazon, eBay and others to oppose a new law aimed at making more out-of-state online retailers collect sales tax on behalf of the State of California. But the greediest actor in this drama isn’t Amazon —- it’s the government.

You see, online retailers didn’t pick this fight. State lawmakers did —- out of misguided lust for revenue they’ll never see.

Put aside the rhetoric and consider the facts. Under the U.S. Constitution, state lawmakers can’t compel out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax unless those retailers have a physical retail presence —- known as “nexus” —- in our state. Californians are supposed to pay use tax —- the equivalent of sales tax —- on out-of-state purchases, but few do.

It works the same way in reverse. California businesses making out-of-state sales in states where they have no brick-and-mortar retail presence don’t have to register with the tax bureaucracies in those states, collect and remit sales tax or be subject to audits. In five states where Amazon collects and remits sales tax, many California… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Qualified Purchasers Survey

The “Qualified Purchasers Program” was created by the State Legislature, when it approved Assembly Bill X4 18 in 2009. I was serving as a Senator at the time and voted against the legislation. I continue to believe this new use tax collection program is a costly mistake.

To date BOE has identified more than 500,000 businesses as “qualified purchasers” and has automatically registered many of them with a “use tax” account. A qualified purchaser is defined as a service enterprise with more than $100,000 in gross receipts per calendar year that is not already registered with the Board of Equalization.

Most people are understandably confused about ‘use tax.’” The use tax applies to all Californians when you purchase items from a retailer who is not located in California and not registered to remit tax to California. Prior to the creation of the Qualified Purchaser Program, there were already two different ways for Californians to report use tax—(1) BOE Form 79b and (2) a dedicated line on state income tax forms.

My review of this new… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Lower Sales Tax Rate Will Be Good for California

The statewide sales and use tax rate will decrease from 8.25 percent to 7.25 percent on July 1, 2011. This is great news for overtaxed Californians, who bear the sixth highest overall tax burden in the nation. A lower sales tax will help our state’s economy and help job creation.

There’s still time for a budget deal before July 1, but it’s already too late to extend the higher sales tax. According to a June 6 Board of Equalization letter, the minimum amount of time necessary to notify retailers of a sales tax rate change is 15 days.

In May 2011 the Board of Equalization notified approximately 680,000 California retailers and out-of-state businesses that make sales in California that the statewide sales and use tax rate will decrease from 8.25 percent to 7.25 percent on July 1, 2011.

Temporary taxes often have a way of sticking around—keep in mind that the 1991 ‘temporary’ 1.25% sales tax increase is still with us today! It will be good for California if this latest sale tax hike goes away and stays away,… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Governor Should Veto “Amazon Tax”

Today I called upon Governor Jerry Brown to veto the so-called “Amazon Tax” recently approved as a budget trailer bill by the Legislature. You can read my letter below or here.

June 17, 2011

Dear Governor Brown:

I am writing to request your veto of Assembly Bill 28X (Blumenfield), the so-called “Amazon Tax.”

As an elected member of the State Board of Equalization, the agency responsible for use tax collection, I am concerned that in its hunger for revenues the California Legislature is traveling down a legally suspect and dangerous path. Rather than educate California taxpayers on their use tax obligations when making purchases from out-of-state sellers, the Legislature is stretching the definition of nexus to the point of absurdity and to the detriment of California’s economy and jobs.

Proponents of AB 28X claim it will “create fairness” by “leveling the playing field” between brick and mortar retailers and online sellers and generate $200 million in new revenues for the state. But in reality the measure… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Interest and Penalties Holiday Would Help Struggling Taxpayers and State Coffers

Today I called upon the Governor and Legislature to enact a six month interest and penalty holiday to help struggling small business owners and other taxpayers who have fallen behind on tax payments during the recent economic downturn.

The state’s job is to collect taxes, not penalties and interest. Too often heavy penalties and punitive interest charges actually make it more difficult for struggling taxpayers to catch up on late payments. If we want more jobs, we need to help California’s job creators get back on their feet.

Instead of increasing taxes or cutting vital programs, we ought to learn from the experience of other states where these programs have successfully raised millions of dollars. I believe a California program would generate several billion dollars of revenues for state and local government.

A tax interest and penalty holiday would be a win-win for both California’s job creators and state coffers.

Below is the text of my letter.You can find mypress release here.

June 10,… Read More

BOE Member George Runner

Pro-Taxpayer Legislation Advances

A key Senate tax committee today voted 9-0 to advance legislation I am sponsoring to empower California’s tax agencies to better assist struggling taxpayers.

The bill will help California’s job creators who are survivors of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and give tax agencies the needed flexibility to deal fairly with taxpayers who are victims of California’s economy.

More specifically, Senate Bill 228 (Wyland) would permit the Board of Equalization, Franchise Tax Board and State Controller to “withdraw” a lien when a taxpayer pays an outstanding liability in full—removing the lien from the taxpayer’s credit record.

Under current law, when a taxpayer falls behind on payments, California’s tax agencies may place a lien on that taxpayer’s personal property.

Once a taxpayer pays the outstanding liability in full, California tax agencies may “release” the lien. However, the release does not remove the lien from a taxpayer’s credit record,… Read More

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