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California Officials Prepare for an Earful from Taxpayers

By: Richard Morrison

California’s Board of Equalization has announced two public hearings in June for state residents to voice their concerns and make suggestions about taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. policy in the state. The hearings, required under the state’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights legislation, will be held in Sacramento and Culver City (near Los Angeles).

These hearings give you the opportunity to present your ideas, concerns, and recommendations regarding legislation, the quality of agency services, and other issues related to the Board’s administration of its tax programs. At the business taxes hearings you can comment on the administration of sales and use taxes, environmental fees, fuel taxes, and excise taxAn excise tax is a tax imposed on a specific good or activity. Excise taxes are commonly levied on cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, soda, gasoline, insurance premiums, amusement activities, and betting, and typically make up a relatively small and volatile portion of state and local and, to a lesser extent, federal tax collections. es. At the property taxA property tax is primarily levied on immovable property like land and buildings, as well as on tangible personal property that is movable, like vehicles and equipment. Property taxes are the single largest source of state and local revenue in the U.S. and help fund schools, roads, police, and other services. hearings you can comment on the property tax programs and laws administered by the Board, and identify ways to resolve any problems identified in the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocates’ 2009-10 Annual Report.

Many states have laws or regulations protecting the interests of taxpayers, some of them also named with a version of phrase “Taxpayer(s) Bill of Rights.” In California, the law provides for a taxpayer advocacy office (similar to the National Taxpayer Advocate on the federal level) as well as a list of enumerated rights, including the right to prompt service, fair treatment, and confidentiality.

In other states, however, legislation that has been passed under the title Taxpayers Bill of Rights (or TABOR) that is more far-reaching, regulating the tax, spending, and/or budgetary authority of state legislators. The effects on state budget under these kinds of TABOR scenarios can be seen using the Tax Foundation’s State Spending Limits Calculator.

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