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TAXWatch: ‘Piling On’ to Transient Vacation Rentals

P iling on, for those of you who aren’t football fans, happens when a player or group of players jump on top of a runner who already has been tackled, just to make sure the runner is not going anywhere.  The tackling team can get no advantage from piling on, and injuries can and often do result from the pile-up, …

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TAXWatch: Let’s Not Tax Transportation

S ome folks ask me if I have any radical ideas to change the tax system in Hawaii.  Here’s one: Stop taxing transportation of goods and people. Before you stop laughing uproariously, though, consider this. First, we can’t tax air transportation.  There are federal laws prohibiting us from applying a gross receipts tax (like our General Excise Tax) to transportation …

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TAXWatch: TANF – $281M Federal Money We Haven’t Spent

T his week we focus on our safety net systems for people or families in need.  In the early 1990s, a major part of this net came from the federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which matched state dollars of financial assistance for a needy family.  That program was replaced with what we have now, Temporary Assistance …

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TAXWatch: Wealth Is a Sin?

A recent op-ed column in Real Clear Politics by Scott Hodge, president of the national Tax Foundation (not related to the Tax Foundation of Hawaii although the names are similar) brought up some interesting ideas, spurred by the announced plans of Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to enact a tax on wealth. Sen. Warren’s wealth tax would …

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TAXWatch: Invasive Species Inspection Fee for Air-flown Commodities

H awai`i is an island state that is home to a unique set of flora and fauna.  It’s vulnerable to invasive species not only from foreign countries but also from the mainland United States, and our Department of Agriculture has traditionally worked hard to keep the bad stuff out.  Little fire ants? Brown tree snakes? We don’t want them, but …

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TAXWatch: An Expensive Charter Crisis on Maui

M aui has figured out a way to bleed cash from its budget very quickly.  It’s called a “Charter Crisis.” It pits one part of government against another one.  Lawyers then are needed to represent one or both warring parties, and when those lawyers get paid, there’s a good chance that taxpayers will end up footing the bill. A case …

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TAXWatch: The Parable of the Two Horses!

T he Hawaii State Tax Watch Doggie at long last has made his son put down his smartphone. Son:  Dad, I’m a little old for bedtime stories. Doggie:  Hush and listen!  And don’t fall asleep on me, darn it! Two horses that were sent to different towns, Harburg and Tarburg.  The folks in the different towns needed the horse to …

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TAXWatch: Saving the Legislature from Itself!

T his week we look at the State Auditor’s recent follow-up report, Report No. 19-14, on the Motion Picture, Digital Media, and Film Production income tax credit.  It notes that when the Auditor’s office previously took up the issue, in Report No. 16-08, the Auditor took the Department of Taxation to task for allowing out-of-state production related expenses to qualify …

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TAXWatch: Business Fees Go Down! –Huh?

I n the news recently was a story about business and licensing fees actually going down.   These fees were imposed by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA).  The money from those fees was funneled to special funds that were supposed to assist with the costs of regulating the industries to which they pertained, namely financial institutions, the cable …

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TAXWatch: The Strange Case of Bank of America

O nce upon a time, there was a big bank called Bank of America.  It wanted to try doing business in Hawaii, since it was already in many of the other western states, so it reached a deal to buy Honolulu Federal (do you remember HonFed?) and took over all of their branches in Hawaii.  This was in 1992.   In …

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