A panel tasked with analyzing Connecticut’s tax structure and suggesting policy options to “modernize” it will meet for the first time on Monday.
The 15-member panel is comprised of experts in tax law, tax accounting, tax policy, economics and business finance. They were appointed by the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, which is convening the panel.
The group will be closely analyzing the major taxes in the state: the corporation business tax, sales and use tax, personal income tax, local property tax, estate and gift tax, and excise tax.
In doing so they are charged with developing “revenue-neutral policy options to modernize the current tax system, with the goals of increasing the system’s simplicity, fairness, economic competitiveness and affordability,” according to the bill that created the panel.
Members will have almost a year and half to complete its work; the bill stipulates the panel must report back to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee by Feb. 1, 2016 with results and any recommendations for further action.
The group’s first meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
Such an exhaustive review of the state’s tax code is overdue, said State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who supported the panel’s formation.
“It could represent the first time in 25 years there is a comprehensive look at the tax code,” he said. “Clearly, it’s a good thing.”
Connecticut taxes haven’t been closely examined since 1991, when the state personal income tax was enacted, Lembo said.
It’s important to take a periodic look at who bares tax burdens in the state, he said, since it is the only realistic way to assess whether a tax is too low, too high or progressive enough.
The annual state tax burden in Connecticut is $2,500 per capita, Lembo said. That’s well above the $1,400 national average and is third-highest in the country, he said. A review of the tax burden will give lawmakers some insight into the effect that is having, like whether it is potentially stifling business innovation, he said.
The panel also will assess how well Connecticut’s tax code aligns with stated public policy goals, he added. “Sometimes they can work against each other” unintentionally, he said.
He hopes the tax analysis will lead to a meaningful conversation about the rainy day fund, which he would like to see lawmakers make more of a fiscal priority.
By the end of this year, the panel must develop an outline of items they will consider, a list of goals and a tentative schedule for their work, according to the bill that created the panel. Members must also meet with various interest groups – business associations, labor groups, public interest groups and accountants, among others – and gather their input by year’s end.
The panel will spend 2015 conducting its analysis by working in subcommittees devoted to each tax. Members will consult with the Office of Policy and Management, the Department of Revenue Services and other experts as needed, according to the bill.
The Connecticut Business & Industry Association is among those who will be closely watching the outcome. Members of the state’s largest business association feel the panel’s work is vital to keeping Connecticut economically competitive, said Bonnie Stewart, CBIA’s vice president of government affairs and general counsel.
“North Carolina and New York, for example, have done similar reviews and have already implemented reforms designed to make them more attractive for private-sector investment and economic development,” she said. “We’re hopeful that the tax study panel results in modifications to Connecticut’s tax system that will help our economy grow and make Connecticut more competitive.”
CBIA members “would like to see state tax policy that encourages business investment, jobs and innovation – tax policy that’s simpler and encourages private-sector investment,” Stewart said. “Taxes and tax policy are extremely important to the Connecticut business community.”