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Tidbits: Oregon Tax & Regulatory Updates

An update on recent Oregon tax and regulatory actions.
Tidbits: Oregon Tax & Regulatory Updates

It’s incredible how perennial ballot measures always find a way to come back from the grave

The Oregon People’s Rebate is reintroducing a proposal for the third consecutive election cycle asking voters to approve a gross receipts minimum tax to finance a universal basic income. In each of their previous runs, the advocates failed to collect enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. Reasonable people can disagree about the virtues and pitfalls of universal basic income, but the funding mechanism has already been tried and failed in Oregon. In 2016, Oregonians resoundingly rejected the gross receipts minimum tax in Measure 97 by more than 18 points. Additionally, Oregon has since enacted a gross receipts tax, so the initiative would add a second tax on top of the existing one. If at first (and second) you don’t succeed, maybe it’s best not to try again.

Making Portland’s taxes just a little less weird

After two years of discussions with the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the Metro Council, the Portland-area governments are moving towards a more uniform tax code with the state. On Wednesday, the City of Portland, which administers all the local taxes, held a public hearing on an ordinance to align the tax rules for attributing income to the jurisdictions.

Oregon Department of Revenue turnabouts on controversial tax rules for online sellers

In a surprise to many, the Department announced on Tuesday it was discontinuing an effort to craft regulations aimed at nullifying a longstanding federal law insulating businesses only shipping goods into the state. Although a handful of states are considering the policy, Oregon was the first and, to date, only state to engage stakeholders, to which the response was resounding opposition.

If local governments are laboratories of democracy, Josephine County is taking it a little too seriously with its own lab RAT

In Southern Oregon, Josephine County has struggled to keep its jails open and staff its law enforcement for years. At times, the funding dramas garnered national media attention. Now, the county has referred a measure to voters that, if passed, would fund law enforcement with a seasonal sales tax, called the retail activities tax (RAT), running from April 15 to October 15. To be fair, sales taxes are an effective means to fund vital public services because of their broad base and low rate. With this tax, however, the odd timeline and details of the tax make it problematic. On another note, can we please stop with the cute (or, in this case, repulsive) acronyms?

Last but not least, a gripe

One of our local newspapers recently ran a series of articles chastising one of the only tax incentives state and local governments offer to lure business investment. It’s healthy to debate the virtue of tax incentives. It’s not healthy to do it without any context. So, here it goes. In most instances, tax incentives are a band-aid to fix a broken tax system. Rather than healing the wound and reforming the problems in whatever tax is at hand, policymakers look for a quick fix. If the legislature or advocates decide to revisit those policies, they better approach them with the precision of a surgeon.

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