Tom Yamachika

Tom Yamachika
Tom Yamachika is the President of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, a private, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to informing the taxpaying public about the finances of our state and local governments in Hawaii. Tom is also a tax attorney in solo practice and has been since early 2013. Prior to 2013, he was with the accounting firm Accuity LLP, which was formed in 2006 from the Honolulu office of Coopers & Lybrand (which later became PricewaterhouseCoopers). Before that, he served as an Administrative Rules Specialist in the State of Hawaii Department of Taxation from 1994 to 1996, where he drafted rules, interpretive releases, and legislation on several different state taxes. Prior to that, he practiced litigation and tax law with Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright in Honolulu.

TAXWatch: The Flippin’ Surcharge and Other Housing Solutions

T his year’s Legislature has produced some unique proposed solutions to deal with our housing crisis. Senate Bill 2216, introduced by Sen. Stanley Chang, chair of the Senate Housing Committee, proposes an “empty homes tax.“  If you own residential  real property in Hawaii and you can’t swear that you lived in it, then you get charged a tax. The annual …

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TAXWatch: The ConAm Returns

T wo years ago, we as voters were inundated with impassioned arguments on both sides of a proposed constitutional amendment (“ConAm” for short). The amendment would have given the State the power to impose a surcharge on real property tax, ostensibly to fund teacher pay raises.  The Hawaii Supreme Court ultimately voided the ConAm as vague and misleading.  It’s now …

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TAXWatch: More Special Funds?!

A fter going through the hundreds of bills introduced in the 2020 Legislature, a few themes appear to be emerging. One of them is that there are a plethora of requests for “special funds.”  Special funds are pots of money that exist for a specific purpose, and largely bypass the legislative appropriation process.  The existence of hundreds of these special …

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TAXWatch: Don’t Let Them Double Up!

F ollowing a major U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 (South Dakota v. Wayfair), many States, including ours, enacted “economic nexus” legislation, which means that we consider any business that transacts $100,000 or more in Hawaii sales or 200 or more Hawaii transactions to be subject to Hawaii tax laws, and we require such a business to comply with the …

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TAXWatch: What Really Is a Minimum Wage?

H appy New Year!  It’s now 2020 and talk already has begun about raising our minimum wage.  $10.10 an hour is not a living wage, some say, so we should be hoisting our minimum wage to say $15 or $17, which some say is the minimum required to make ends meet here in Hawaii assuming you are working 40 hours …

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TAXWatch: Cooling the Schools – The Reality

I t wasn’t long ago that, in response to numerous complaints of students sweltering in their classrooms, Governor Ige proclaimed that he would commit $100 million to cool 1,000 classrooms.  At the end of the 2016 legislative session, he signed Act 47 of 2016 appropriating the funds to the Department of Education (DOE), and in 2018 he trumpeted this accomplishment …

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TAXWatch: Red Flags at OHA

A recent, eagerly awaited independent financial review of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) has been in the news lately.  The review, conducted by the California-based accounting firm CliftonLarsenAllen (“CLA”), made several observations and recommendations, including the flagging of 32 transactions, representing $7.8 million, as potentially fraudulent, wasteful, or abusive. Indeed, of the 185 transactions the firm reviewed, it had …

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TAXWatch: Ninety-One Hours in a Work Week?!

R ecently, the website howmuch.net, a financial literacy website with interesting visualizations about various financial topics, came out with a comparison called, “This is How Long You Need to Work to Live Comfortably in Every State.” Those folks tried to calculate, for each state, the annual wage required to live comfortably, by earner, and the number of hours per week …

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TAXWatch: ‘Piling On’ to Transient Vacation Rentals

P iling on, for those of you who aren’t football fans, happens when a player or group of players jump on top of a runner who already has been tackled, just to make sure the runner is not going anywhere.  The tackling team can get no advantage from piling on, and injuries can and often do result from the pile-up, …

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TAXWatch: TANF – $281M Federal Money We Haven’t Spent

T his week we focus on our safety net systems for people or families in need.  In the early 1990s, a major part of this net came from the federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which matched state dollars of financial assistance for a needy family.  That program was replaced with what we have now, Temporary Assistance …

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