Aggravating exemptions

POSTED: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 6:25pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - 12:05am

The state tax code is loaded with special interest exemptions that some of us might question.
But like every special interest, they all have an explanation, and a defender,
But the truth is, the state takes in about $28-billion dollars in tax revenue. But it loses $32-billion to exemptions. In other words, we exclude more than we take in.
So why is aviation fuel exempt from state taxes? How about machinery for manufacturing?
And why don’t we pay taxes when we visit the doctor or the dentist, pay for a funeral, a daycare facility, or go to the barber.
The reason is business.
The state wants to encourage airlines and manufacturing so they get a break.
Texas professionals would be at a disadvantage if their services were taxed and those in neighboring states were not.
“Without an ag exemption, people who are really in the industry and trying to make a living at it…they just can’t do it,” says Whitehouse rancher Hank Gilbert.
And then there’s the biggest single tax break, the agriculture exemption.
Property taxes are the lifeblood of schools, and they are taking the biggest hit in the next budget.
“And when you have a state like Texas that reliant on running their state government on property taxes, every dollar counts,” Gilbert says.
We all want to help farming but we have also all heard the urban legends. You have some land? Just buy a couple of sheep or plant some hay. You’ll get your taxes knocked way down.
“Oh, there’s a ton of that going on, Roger,” he told us. “Not only in this county but all across the state. Because there’s never been a law made that people couldn’t find a loophole through. If it’s got some trees on it, and they’re dense trees, you tell the Appraisal District, hey, I’m growing timber.”
So should the law be tightened up?
“Well we’ve got to eat and we’ve got to wear clothes,” Gilbert says, “ or we’re going to be skinny and naked. And without agriculture that’s where we’ll be.”
Not only does every exemption have its defender, it has its lobbyist as well. In fact, there are 2248 registered lobbyists in the state capital.
That’s 12 paid lobbyists for every member of the Legislature.

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It's a darn shame that Hank Gilbert was elected as the Ag Commissioner. He really knows what he's talking about.

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