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Today's letters: $280M in untapped tax beckons
By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published July 15, 2007
Sydney Freedberg's perceptive article, plus the experience of this former manager of a corporation doing business in many Florida counties, indicates that the Florida Revenue Department's estimate of $280-million of lost business tangible personal property-tax revenue is probably low.
Among the reasons why businesses fail to fully report their investment in taxable machinery, equipment, furniture, fixtures and merchandise is, first, the tax on these essential instruments of doing business is grossly inequitable and, second, the tax is basically self-assessed, making it easy to avoid.
The only kind of tax on business that makes sense is a tax on profitability, i.e., an income tax. It is altogether possible for a business that makes little profit - or none at all - to have millions tied up in taxable property whereas, for example, a services business (law, accounting, etc.) that operates profitably out of a small office has very little in the way of taxable property. This is why many states have repealed the business personal property tax or repealed major portions of it: the tax on machinery or on merchandise.
In Florida's present climate of property-tax relief, our legislators should take note. We don't need to recoup that $280-million of untapped tax; we need to repeal it.
Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg
Step up enforcement
A piece of legislation offered in behalf of the tax collector of Miami-Dade County failed this year which would have permitted as an option for tax collectors to contract with outside law firms to pursue delinquent tangible personal property tax. It had the support of the Florida Association of Counties and was filed by Rep. Jim Waldman and Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla.
The bill failed.
Perhaps consistent with your well- written article, this issue will see a new light in the 2008 legislative session as local governments realize the inequity between people who don't pay their taxes and those who do.
As local governments struggle for dollars, can they really afford for anyone not to pay what they owe to the government?
Robert M. Levy, Tallahassee
$280M in untapped tax beckons July 8, story
Stepped up taxation seems a cruel blow
More consistent application of the tangibles tax may be warranted, but it seems an especially cruel blow to go after businesses when they have received virtually no property tax relief from the Legislature. Small, locally owned businesses are already having a very tough time making ends meet.
The Legislature needs to go back to the drawing board and enact a more equitable tax system than the one they came up with, to include reinstating an intangibles tax on both businesses and individuals, redesigning the homestead exemption so that it is truly fair to everyone, and giving businesses a measure of property tax relief.
While they're at it, maybe our legislators could take another stab at reining in the insurance companies who are raking in record profits, too.
Jan Allyn, Largo
Tax church property
There is a very viable source of untapped tax revenue that is not mentioned in this article. Long ago, tax exemptions were granted to religious organizations to help them gain a stronghold in our country. Today, religious organizations have untold wealth in property holdings, but still are not paying taxes.
Although I will mention Scientology as an example of an extremely wealthy landowner, this applies to all religions. One of the main functions of a church is to help the poor. Well, the time has come!
People are losing their homes because they aren't able to keep up with the costs of living here, and businesses are leaving the area. Because of budget cuts, recreation facilities and parks, libraries, services to the poor will suffer. Taxing properties owned by religious organizations would certainly generate enough revenue to help with all these problems. Make the tax a small percent and we would still all benefit.
We just need a politician who is brave enough to bring this idea up when lawmakers are in session. Put it to a vote by the people and I'm sure it would pass. The free ride needs to end.
Lillian Ferencz, Clearwater
Cultural revolution July 8, Perspective story
Ivan Penn's celebration of Communist China's support for a play on civil rights is a bit strange. Communist China is more open today than before Deng Xiaoping. The Chinese are more than willing to let foolish international capitalists make them the greatest industrial power in history. But the play about Martin Luther King's struggle for civil rights in the United States is hardly revolutionary.
Even in the day's of Mao's "Cultural Revolution," when the Chinese spent a lot of time and energy over who was a better Communist, such a play would hardly have been out of line. There was probably never a time when Communist China would not have endorsed the valiant struggle of African-Americans for civil rights against white racist (and even capitalist) America. Like Russian Communists, and as it was even said of Victorian Britain, they supported everybody's rebels except their own.
When they allow a play to be produced celebrating the struggle of the students of Tiananmen Square for civil rights against their Chinese Communist overlords, that will be a real cultural revolution.
Pat Condray, Crystal River
Bush, scholars and philosophers July 8, Perspective article
I'm not real sure what the point of this article was, but one thing is made clear. Osama bin Laden isn't the world's only religious extremist in charge of a deadly killing force.
Anyone who doesn't worry about his actions because "he sees himself as doing the Lord's work" and is "answering to God" is not someone I want to see in a position of power.
It's nice to hear that the president sleeps well at night due to his wonderful faith. Too bad the rest of us still have to live the nightmare of a second term.
Ron Forster, Odessa
Playing "gotcha" July 8, letter
I can only surmise that the letter writer has been overseas, or on the space station, for the past six years and is now trying to make sense of the country she finds upon returning.
She berates Congress for the investigations and oversight hearings that only began after the Democrats took the majority in Congress. Doesn't she understand that the need for so many hearings is only because, for the previous six years of Republican "leadership," there was absolutely no scrutiny of this administration, allowing it to operate as a monarchy with no apparent co-equal branches of government?
Rather than considering this a "pitiful waste of time," perhaps she should be grateful that someone is finally stepping up to protect our Constitution and the rights of Americans that this administration has so shamefully trampled upon.
As someone who's been waiting for six years for some openness in this government, I can only say, "Subpoenas?"
Finally, God blessed America!
Jackie Gavrian, Brandon
Coming up empty July 8, story
The excellent and painful-to-read story by Times staff writer Tom Zucco and news researcher Caryn Baird made me shake with anger. Once again, the "Insurance Mafia" is alive and well. Shame on you, State Farm, for pulling the oldest trick in the book. The "bait and switch" pitted friends against one another instead of State Farm paying the Shivers what was rightfully owed to them.
State Farm's Chris Neal made me choke on my coffee when he said that "a courtroom is not the best place to take on the nation's largest auto insurer. We win almost all jury trials."
I could almost hear the creepy gang-like Sopranos theme music in the background as I read that.
I plan on changing my auto insurance, which my family now has through State Farm (cue creepy music again). May they sleep with the fishes!
Edie Emerald-Barsch, Treasure Island
Quiet hero lets truth speak loudly July 8, Robyn Blumner column
As a retired JAGC officer, I want to commend Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham for his stand supporting proper legal procedures and constitutional rights for the Guantanamo prisoners.
It is deplorable to observe the decay of our military legal system in the face of political pressure.