Sales Tax Exemption Focus of TRAC Meeting

August 20, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveBy Jane Page Thompson
Citizen Reporter

The S.C. Tax Realignment Commission met Aug. 13 to hear testimony on its sales tax-exemption recommendations.

Until now, the commission has been restricted from contact with lobbyists. Therefore, some thought that since was just the second opportunity in two years for lobbyists to address the panel, representatives from every major special interest would be there to pitch exemptions for their industries.

But lobbyists were practically nonexistent.

Two lawyers defended the sales tax exemption on prescription drugs. The heads of three different organizations gave testimony supporting their industries’ opposition to a shift in taxation. But the remaining testimony came from eight citizens, some expressing concern for further taxation and others urging the elimination of exemptions.

Many who have attended the TRAC meetings regularly realized the apparent futility of the commission’s task. The Legislature has mandated that they review taxes, but not Act 388, which exempts owner-occupied homes from property taxes that pay for school operations.

The Legislature has mandated that the commission’s recommendation be passed up or down, and has given TRAC the resources to collect educational taxation data showing the stat’s tax structure is unfair, unbalanced and destructive to business growth.

Recognizing that the symptoms of the state’s weak economy and poor tax structure are corporate welfare programs, fee-in-lieu-of-tax deals and hikes on mil rates, some attendees said it was painful to watch commissioners grapple with a losing proposition.

It would be unfortunate if the TRAC commission process remains inflexible since several memebers are strong business leaders with proven track records for leading businesses. It is that type of leadership and creativity that South Carolina needs to adopt a fair tax system.

Jane Page Thompson is an accredited land consultant and Realtor from Aiken. She is active in her community and is involved in local political party grassroots development.