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Opinion

Community Viewpoint: Failed housing policy, in perpetuity

Following a decision by the owner of a Lahaina “affordable housing” complex to sell its 142 units at market prices starting in 2019 — three decades earlier than expected — there is movement at the Maui County Council to require that all of Maui’s so-called affordable housing to remain so in perpetuity. Councilwoman Elle Cochran introduced a measure in October …

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The Value of a Refundable Credit

In the 2017 legislative session, our legislature passed an earned income tax credit (EITC), which its supporters maintain is the best solution to lift families out of poverty since sliced bread.  At the Department of Taxation‘s urging, however, the EITC was made nonrefundable.  Advocates clearly didn’t like that, and are already imploring the 2018 legislature to make the credit refundable. …

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How Much Does a Crosswalk Cost?

Most of us are very familiar with crosswalks and traffic signals.  We pass a few of them every day.  We might get stopped by a red light from one of them.  But have we ever stopped to think how much one of these things cost? One of the bills introduced in the recent legislative session, Senate Bill 2004, tells the …

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Oops! Math Error!

The National Taxpayer Advocate recently produced a “Purple Book” containing her top 50 recommendations for the IRS.  One of them concerned “math error authority,” which brought to mind one of the failings in Hawaii’s tax system. On the federal side, disputes between the IRS and taxpayers play out through a lengthy process.  The IRS proposes an assessment, the taxpayer responds …

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TrumpTax, Part 2

One of the new, key components of Trump Tax is a provision important to the vast majority of small businesses.  Practitioners may know it as the Section 199A deduction. Under Trump Tax, corporations that used to see a maximum tax rate of 35% got that rate slashed to 21%.  About 75% of businesses, however, are not taxed at the corporate …

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What’s a Carbon Tax?

Recently, the Hawaii Tax Review Commission’s primary consultant, PFM Group, issued a final report to the Commission asking it to review many taxing alternatives, including a “carbon tax” that had the potential to put an additional $360 million per year into our state coffers (assuming a tax rate of $20 per metric ton of CO2 released). PFM Group pointed out …

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VIEWPOINT: Is it time for a Constitutional Convention for Hawaii?

The 2018 general election is going to be a special one for our state because we get to vote on whether to have a constitutional convention. Normally, our legislature acts as the gatekeeper for any changes to the Hawaii Constitution.  No proposed amendment can even get on the ballot if our legislature hasn’t approved it.  In a way, this is …

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Cybergambling

Our state was recently in the news when State Reps. Chris Lee and Sean Quinlan held a press conference in response to the controversy surrounding loot boxes and microtransactions in video games.  Lee announced that he would be looking to introduce legislation to combat predatory practices by game publishers.  He called Star Wars: Battlefront II an “online casino specifically designed …

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Voluntary Additional Tax?

Recently I received an email from an alert citizen whose remarks were published in Money magazine in March 2017.  It apparently impressed the editors of the magazine enough to print this comment in extra-large type.  It was in response to an article titled “The 2017 Washington Wish List,” and here it is: Here’s my wish as an ordinary taxpayer:  Let’s …

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Letter: County needs to seriously consider banning ALL fireworks

The County of Maui needs to seriously consider banning ALL fireworks. A few people in my area have continually broken the law year after year by lighting off loud blasting and airborne fireworks starting around Halloween and continuing through January. The laws governing firework usage are not enforceable, the police can only ticket criminals if they see them doing the …

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