Professionals may face sales tax, Steinberg says

January 15, 1991|By David Conn | David Conn,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Lawyers, doctors and accountants may not escape the larger sales tax net proposed by the Linowes tax commission, Lt. Governor Melvin A. Steinberg warned last night.

While Mr. Steinberg said that Gov. William Donald Schaefer has yet to decide which of the commission's proposals to endorse, he told a state bar association dinner last night that lawyers and other professionals may not be exempted from a sales tax on their services, as the commission proposed.

"There is serious discussion taking place on whether or not we will go with the sales tax . . . and make it include lawyers," he told the group.

Under a sweeping set of proposals forwarded by the Maryland Commission on Taxes and Tax Structure, popularly known as the Linowes commission, the sales tax would be applied to about a dozen services that currently are not now subject to the sales tax. The sales tax overall would be increased from 5 to 5 1/2 per cent.

The services of lawyers, doctors and accountants were not included in the proposed expansion. But Mr. Steinberg said that the exemptions have raised charges that powerful and influential interests powerful business were deliberately exempted.

"The perception is that the lawyers were cut out because of the lawyers in the legislature," Mr. Steinberg told the bar members.

In remarks after the speech, the lieutenant governor emphasized that the Linowes report "is not a bill, it's a proposal," and that it's by no means certain whether Gov. William Donald Schaefer is prepared to submit legislation based on the report.

But, he said, "If lawyers are exempted, they should be able to substantiate that exemption economically and administratively." The same principle should apply to doctors and accountants, Mr. Steinberg added.

Some legislators agreed that the proposed exemptions seem unfair. "If we're going to impose a sales tax on barbers and beauticians and a host of other cottage industries, which are largely blue collar in nature, I see no earthly reason why the professions should be exempt," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's.

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