Opinion

TAXWatch: Green Fees – But Not the Golfing Kind

Senate Bill 2696, which the Senate has just given to the House for consideration, is a bill “Relating to Green Fees.”  These green fees have nothing to do with playing golf, however; they are per visitor, per stay charges the money from which goes to protect and preserve the environment.  Some national governments already charge them, including the Republic of …

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TAXWatch: Just a Technical Change

S ome of the bills making their way through our Legislature are sponsored by executive departments.  One such department, the Department of Taxation, is behind a few of them. One of them worth mentioning, introduced as SB 2922 and HB 2366, proposes to change some criminal penalties in our Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) law to civil fines … and “to …

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TAXWatch: Proposed State Improvement Surcharge

I n the past few legislative sessions, there always had been one or two proposals to raise taxes in a big way.  Some of them got pretty far along the road to becoming law, and some of them actually became law. You might recall that in 2017, Act 107 permanently reinstated the “temporary” 9%, 10%, and 11% income tax brackets …

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TAXWatch: Do You Buy Fuel? Then Be Very Afraid!

W e have occasionally written about a “carbon tax,” something environmentalists appear to be supporting enthusiastically.  The basic idea behind one is that a tax is placed upon the purchase of all fuels that result in carbon emissions when the fuel is burned to release energy.  The amount of the tax is based on the type of fuel and is …

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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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