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WHY I FIGHT SO HARD FOR TAXPAYERS AT THE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION

Acting Board of Equalization Member Barbara Alby

April 26, 2010

[Publisher's Note:  As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from Board of Equalization District 2 Candidate and former Assemblywoman Barbara Alby -- Flash.]


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Let’s face it; most people have no idea what the Board of Equalization (BOE) does.  In essence, Board members serve as judge, jury and executioner of our tax laws. 
 
California is the only state in the nation with an elected tax board. The BOE members directly administer three dozen-plus tax and fee programs.
 
The members assess the property tax value of railroads and utilities, including gas, electric, and telephone companies.
 
We also serve as the appellate body for income tax appeals, property tax appeals, and various business tax appeals.  Every Californian regardless of income or status has access to this unique forum to dispute the tax the state says you owe.
 
BOE members write the rules, implement the rules, evaluate your evidence, and apply the rules to your tax appeal.  They are your only hope for justice if you do not owe the taxes that the auditor claims you owe.  While the Legislature sets tax policy (enabling statutes otherwise known as tax increases), the BOE has broad authority to write the rules and regulations that clarify and set up the administration of the law. 
 
A flagrant example of this happened last July during the budget deal.   In hopes of collecting more revenue, the Legislature enacted a sweeping registration requirement that may put thousands of California businesses at risk.  The state Use Tax has been on the books since the 1930s, but now the Legislature will require businesses to register as qualified purchasers.  The problem is many businesses have no idea this new mandate exists, or that they face penalties for failing to comply.  The registration and filing deadline is April 15 and many businesses may not make this deadline.
 
At the March 24 BOE meeting, I directed staff to grant relief of penalty broadly and liberally to those who fall under the new reporting requirement.  A non-elected tax board would have little incentive to help taxpayers in the same way.  Many are calling upon the Legislature to fix the law, but tinkering at the margins of a bad law is not enough.  This sweeping mandate needs to be repealed.
 
This June, when you cast your vote for members of the Board of Equalization, choose wisely!

Today’s liberals are looking for any way they can to take money out of your pocket to pay for some politician’s favorite program.  For your own sake, choose someone who has the experience, knowledge, and proven record of effectively advocating and defending taxpayers at the BOE.  It is not enough to have the right philosophy and cast the right vote.  Since only two of the three Board members are Republican, you need an effective advocate, someone you can trust to cross the political aisle and secure that ‘third vote.’ This is exactly what I have done for the past seven years at the BOE working with "all" of the members of the Board for the good of the taxpayer.
 
As the saying goes, the power to tax is the power to destroy.  California’s tax agencies have all the resources of the State at their disposal, even the power to empty your bank account, sell your home, or shut down your business -- without a court order.  The elected members of the Board can stop them, so it really does matter who represents you and casts votes at the BOE.
 
Each day for the past seven years, I have been working with my good friend and colleague, Bill Leonard, to assist taxpayers through our complex tax system.  The Governor recently asked Bill to become Secretary of State and Consumer Services Agency.  In the capacity of Acting Board Member, I am an aggressive taxpayer advocate fighting for fairness, common sense, and transparency from our tax agencies.
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Barbara Alby is the Acting Board Member for the State Board of Equalization, District 2. 

Check out her blog at http://blog.barbaraalby.com.

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