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Opinion

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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VIEWPOINT: Why Are Maui’s Malls Vacant?

Today nearly 12 percent of Maui’s retail space is empty, and that figure is expected to rise to 16 percent by the beginning of next year. That would amount to an increase of 100 percent since 2013, when retail vacancy was at 8 percent. It may not be apparent walking through Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center, but take a stroll through Lahaina …

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The Tax Administration Slush Fund

In early November 2017, the State Auditor issued Report 17-10, which reviewed special, revolving, and trust funds administered by the Department of Taxation.  One of them is the Tax Administration Special Fund, which, although not an area of concern for the auditor, is becoming an all-purpose slush fund for which corrective action is needed. The Tax Administration Special Fund was …

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VIEWPOINT: Are Car Rentals “Tourism Related Services”?

In the last few weeks I’ve been discussing the Foundation’s involvement in litigation involving online travel companies and the State’s attempts to wrest more general excise taxes out of them. The Foundation has limited its involvement with the case to the “res judicata” issue. This article describes the other issue: whether car rentals are “tourism related services.” This issue is …

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VIEWPOINT: No End to Litigation, Part 2

Two weeks ago, we wrote about a case now before the Hawaii Supreme Court in which the State audited and assessed the taxpayers, causing the taxpayers to spend millions of dollars on litigation that resulted in a court judgment. The State then audited and assessed more of the same taxes (General Excise taxes) for the same years, forcing both the …

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Department of Taxation Customer Service – Don’t’ Be a Victim

In an earlier article, I wrote about customer service at the Department of Taxation.  One alert reader wrote, with tongue firmly in cheek (I think), “I object to the use of the word ‘customer.’  It certainly doesn’t feel like that type of relationship to me.  Maybe ‘hostage’?” he writes. Calling a taxpayer a customer isn’t too far from reality.  Taxpayers …

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VIEWPOINT: Did DOTAX Turn the Corner on Customer Service?

It’s about time for our annual review of the Department of Taxation and its customer service.  Let’s see how the Department did in the year ending June 30, 2016, as reflected in the Department’s annual report. One notable improvement has been in the Department’s call answer rate.  If a practitioner or a taxpayer picks up the phone and calls the …

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Community Viewpoint: Why no trailer parks on Maui?

Have you ever wondered why there aren’t any trailer parks on Maui? Or why “tiny home” villages haven’t caught on in the islands yet? With the cost of housing displacing more local families every day, these affordable alternative communities are noticeably absent. So what’s preventing their development? Ironically, there are not actually any explicit legal barriers, according to the Maui …

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VIEWPOINT: Incentives for Retirement Savings

During the past few months, the Tax Review Commission, a group provided for in our state constitution that is supposed to meet once every five years, has been busy at work. The Commission is tasked with recommending changes to our tax laws, and its consultant has recommended limiting the pension exemption that we now have in our state income tax …

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