Forum to explore tax breaks

There are more than 500 state tax exemptions that every year result in billions of dollars in tax breaks.

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WALLA WALLA — A group of grandmothers is hoping to raise awareness about the great tax shift.

“We just want to discuss these tax breaks and turn people on to discussing these thing,” said Grandmother’s Roundtable member Pat Yenney. “And tax shifting is one of the things that is going to be discussed.”

On Monday, city managers from Walla Walla and College Place will join Walla Walla County Assessor Debra Antes and take part in a forum titled Are Tax Breaks Breaking Us?

A state funded study that looked at tax exemptions for the 2007-09 biennium found tax breaks totaled $98.5 billion for those two years.

There are more than 500 state tax exemptions that every year result in billions of dollars in tax breaks for nonprofits, government agencies, businesses and individuals.

Yenney pointed out that when federal, state or local authorities allow tax exemptions, the remaining taxpayers must make up the difference, often in higher property taxes, creating a tax shift.

“Shifting is a big word today. The tax shift is where people get concerned,” Antes added.

The single largest source of tax exemptions in Washington state deals with property tax breaks. Exemptions of this type for the 2007-09 biennium totaled $44.7 billion or 45.4 percent of all exemptions.

Retail sales tax breaks was the second highest source, accounting for 39.7 percent or $39.1 billion for the same period.

Antes said her department administers two local tax break programs — the senior exemption and the home improvement exemption programs.

Under the senior exemption program, a homeowner who is a senior or disabled and who makes less than $35,000 a year can have the taxable value of their home reduce by $60,000 or 60 percent, which ever is greater and have the value of their home frozen at the lower level. The program does not look at other assets or place any limits on the value of the home, Antes said.

The home improvement exemption is a three-year deferral on property value increases that result from qualifying home improvements like room additions.

Monday’s meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at Walla Walla Community College, room 185.

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