Linowes Commission Tax Plan: Read It Before You Rip It

THE WAY IT IS

March 03, 1991|By Jeff Griffith

"Jeez! Can you believe those pinheads in Annapolis want to raise ourtaxes again? Mine are ridiculously high already. Property taxes are killing me."

"Who wants to raise your taxes?"

"Those Linowes dudes. Who do they think they are? Another bunch of silk-stocking liberals!"

"Actually, the commission is one of those 'blue-ribbon panels' of civic-minded folk who donate their services to the community. And if their plan is adopted, their taxes will goup and yours are likely to go down."

"Bull! Everybody knows that their plan is a tax increase."

"Tax reform, pal, not necessarily tax increase. Look at the impact on you, and stop listening to the propaganda put out by the proposal's opponents. How much do you make?"

"About $40 thou per."

"Then your income taxes will probably go down. The break point for income tax reductions is at around 40K, but depending on deductions, filing status and other variables, the exactpoint at which individuals can expect to pay lower income tax will fluctuate. The big thing is that in Carroll alone, 62 percent of all of us will pay less. And you're probably one of the lucky ones."

"Oh, really! But what about the new excise tax on my wheels? 2 percent!2 percent every year! That stinks big time!"

"I'm not thrilled about the tax on cars either, but when I look at the alternatives, I'm not so unhappy."

"What alternatives?"

"Well, do you own a home?"

"Yeah. So?"

"So the tax on your home will go down."

"Big deal. What's that got to do with the tax on my car?"

"The idea is to replace property tax revenues with income from a more equitable source. Property taxes hurt many people. They go up in response to inflated values of real estate, which often have little or no relationshipto the ability of the owner to pay, especially some seniors and others on fixed incomes. The plan calls for tax credits, too -- even for renters."

"You still haven't told me what this has to do with my car."

"The revenue from the car tax will replace some of the lost income resulting from the property tax decrease. And the source of thenew tax is more fair."

"More fair? Bull!"

"Yes, more fair. Theamount of tax you pay on your car will reflect actual market value. The tax will go down as the car depreciates -- the total opposite of the way property taxes work. You know, the way inflation has hit housing prices, I couldn't afford to buy my own house today. And the assessment goes up every year, driving the tax bill up. The plan reduces property taxes, provides for hardship deferrals, requires the county to allow quarterly or semiannual payments to spread costs out and even simplifies the assessment process. To avoid higher property taxes, I'm reluctantly willing to pay a small tax on my car."

"And the increased sales tax is OK with you, too, especially since the proposed tax on services won't apply to lawyers."

"Maybe not, but the word I hear is that if the tax on services flies, lawyers will be the first to be amended in. The tax on services will get passed on just like all other sales taxes anyway."

"And you think that's good?"

"I think it's better than the alternatives -- higher income taxes and higher property taxes. I also think that the Linowes plan puts the burden where it ought to be -- on those who can afford to pay. Two-thirdsof the people of Maryland will get relief in the form of lower taxes. My guess is that most of the opposition is from the one-third who will pay more. And that one-third is the wealthiest one-third, not middle-class types like us."

"All of that might be true, but we all know that this is just another smoke screen to bail out Baltimore City. More money to the city."

"Wrong again. In fact, the plan proposes certain additional revenues for all the subdivisions, and increasedaid to the 12 poorest, not just the city. Why don't you stop beefingand read the commission report?"

"Who has time to read reports?"

"Guess what. If you'd just take time to learn the facts, you'd discover that for most of us this tax reform package will be beneficial.That's the way it is."

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