JEFFERSON CITY — Today (9-10), Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, released his comments on Senate Bill 584 and announced his intention during the next legislative session to pursue structural reform in tax administration and initiate a comprehensive review of the state tax code:
“Senate Bill 584 started out as a targeted treatment for a specific ill. A treatment for a misinterpretation — a misuse — of our tax code. During the course of the session, colleagues came forward with similar problems, and we sought to treat them as well.
But there are signs of deeper problems, which we have heard around the state during hearings of the Interim Committee on Tax Administration Practices.
- Small businesses barely off the ground endure lengthy audits before being slammed with three years or more of ‘back’ taxes—taxes they never suspected needed to be collected. Their only warning of changes in department policy? Notification by audit.
- Tax distributions to Missouri’s third largest city from DOR are irregular and unpredictable, only increasing pressure on them.
- The right hand at DOR says ‘Collect,’ while the left hand says ‘Don’t collect.’ Or both must check with their supervisors first.’
- A tax attorney tells me he would rather deal with the IRS than the state Department of Revenue.
Ultimately, SB 584 only dealt with symptoms — symptoms of an ailing tax code. If a doctor merely addresses a patient’s symptoms, but fails to recognize and treat the root cause of an illness, the patient may still perish. We can override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 584, and the distress for some citizens may subside for a time, but the cause will not disappear.
Half-measures will not do. Wisdom says to measure twice, and act once. We can tackle the tax code exemption by exemption . . . industry by industry . . . symptom by symptom — as SB 584 does — or we can embrace a larger and more challenging task.
First, we must increase transparency and accountability in tax collection, making certain that the Department of Revenue administers our tax code in a predictable and consistent manner.
Second, for the sake of all Missourians, we must provide greater clarity in our tax law, with a well-coordinated, comprehensive review and revision of the state tax code.
Next year, I intend to pursue both.
An antiquated, outdated tax code undermines the overall health of our state, our local governments, our schools and our future. Our tax policies should reward the hard work of the individual taxpayer and small independent business owner, and help working Missourians earn an honest living and keep more of what they earn. Nearly 240 years ago, the rallying cry was ‘no taxation without representation.’ If we fail to act decisively, the next rallying cry may be ‘no taxation through misinterpretation’ or ‘no taxation through intimidation.’ Honest taxpayers should not feel like participants in the Hunger Games!
I expect those whose voices were raised loudest in concern about SB 584 to be in the hearing rooms, and at the table, as part of the solution, not just in the gallery.
The only limits are the ones we place on ourselves. I will work with whoever is willing to work with me. However, those who say it’s too hard have already given up. The Missouri Criminal Code received similar attention, and we successfully passed it earlier this year, in a bipartisan manner, policy-focused, contrary to conventional wisdom and despite significant obstacles and opposition.
To paraphrase a colleague in the House, ‘reasonable caution in governors and legislators . . . is prudent.’ However, we should not allow ‘political timidity’ to deter us from our duty to act, before individual taxpayers and job creators pay the price for inaction.
This is indeed the time to act. Let’s begin the process.”