By the time you read this, the ballot measures having to do with taxes — some which laughably read “without raising taxes …” — will be decided. It’s my sincere hope none of them pass. I have myriad reasons why — including the fact government simply can’t provide all it advertises, and it’s worse when it comes to taxes.
Here are a couple of examples that have raised my awareness the past few weeks.
For the first time in my history, the printing of my newspaper will be taxed. I haven’t paid taxes on the printing of the paper since I came here in 2000. So why now? I don’t know, but it caused me to look into the laws related to newspapers and taxes. Here’s what I found out.
Back in 1943, the State of Colorado decided because of the role newspapers play in a community, the supplies needed to create the newspaper (ink and newsprint) shouldn’t be taxed. The benefit of the information in the community paper outweighed the small amount of revenue the local community or state would receive. Can I wrap my head around that? Perhaps. But I always stop short when the premise is the state or community should be taxing in the first place. So in the end, not really.
So the first law regarding NOT taxing publications in Colorado was written to benefit the large, daily newspapers in Colorado. In other words, the folks with the huge printing presses got a tax break on their supplies. And as all law goes related to taxes, more laws needed to be written. So we now have laws that exempt large newspaper publishers for a sales tax based on their being a “legal publication.” And who decides what’s a legal publication? The state, of course. Apparently publishing news in Grand Junction “only periodically” for 25 years is a disqualifier.
The state exempts large publishers and printers from taxes on their supplies and then exempts them from sales taxes based on a state-decided label of “legal publication.” Worse, these same publishers and printers print many of the smaller periodicals you see in your hometown. In other words, large printers and publishers get a tax break to become the tax collector for the state on the smaller publishers who can least afford the tax.
And our Colorado government takes it one step further. Not too long ago the state needed to amend the “legal publication” law in another way. This time related to just where a state, county or local government MUST run certain advertising based on what “legal publication” exists in an area. Now, government entities are dictated by law the publications in which they must run notices and advertising. And guess who benefits with that law? You got it. The same folks already getting the tax breaks.
Why do I bring all of this to your attention? Simple as the reason I vote no on every ballot measure that includes the word tax. The state has the unique inability to treat everyone equally, and tax laws are the worst example. Is there any way smaller periodical publishers are being treated the same as the big boys? Of course not. Mainly because the only folks in the room when these laws are written are the big boys and their elected cronies.
Don’t believe me? Read about how President Franklin Roosevelt perfected this for large corporations while destroying smaller competitors in myriad industries during the Great Depression. FDR and Congress wrote laws with the “big boys” that put smaller competitors out of business all over the country. There’s simply no other outcome that could have occurred. That’s why you have Obamacare, our state’s silly print laws and as of this printing, probably “legal” sports gambling — but only at certain venues in Colorado. It’s what government and big business laws do: add to their taxing and power, increase revenues from the outsiders and run protection rackets for those on the inside.
Still don’t believe me? Think hard about this. Not too long ago we had several “legal publications” in Mesa County, some of them running legal notices and advertising as an alternative. As of the law adjustment on “legal publications,” we now have one. If that won’t convince you, try looking into health insurance options. It’s the same thing.
Then there’s this hidden tax. For the past several years I’ve had to pay a trade name and periodic report to the State of Colorado. One fee is $5 and the other $10. I realize this is a small, yet unnecessary, nuisance to do business in our state. But as things go with taxes and fees — same thing, I know — you just pay them and move on.
Every June and October the state confiscates under the guise of “protecting” business and keeping them “in good standing” these little harassments. Usually, business pay them after receiving the “final notice” email a week before the final payment deadline, as I have for years. However, this last time on the $10 fee, no final notice email was sent out. So as states are want to do, penalties that can’t be removed were applied. Long story short?
This last filing cost me $60.
If you think the “legal publication” laws and penalties on missed fees are an accident or oversight, you probably voted yes on too many ballot measures. They’re two sides of the spending problem coin.
Craig Hall is owner and publisher of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or publisher@thebusinesstimes.