income tax

There’s an old saying I know you’ve heard: “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin said that, by the way. He was a shrewd old cynic who I think would be much more at home in the world today than the other founding fathers.

And I’d also guess Old Ben wouldn’t be surprised to know that his death-and-taxes maxim was, like most things, only about half right. Death remains certain, even if we don’t know where or when. But there is very little certain about taxes.

Oh, we are certain to be taxed, in one form or another. Which is a good thing, if you like clean water, fire departments and schools.

But who pays and who should pay the taxes?

What we should be asking is: How high should taxes be? How do you set tax rates to give us the services we need and help the economy grow? To me, those are terribly important questions.Well, we now have some answers.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Kent County judge says Grand Rapids can ask voters in May to approve an income tax extension.

At issue is a temporary income tax hike that's set to expire in July 2015. The city wants to extend the tax an additional 15 years to pay for road improvements.

In an apparent attempt to pander to voters, the Michigan Legislature is rushing to pass an election year income tax cut. This is a little baffling, because the voters don’t want one.

The state has a budget surplus – on paper, anyway – of a little less than a billion dollars. Two weeks ago, an EPIC-MRA poll found only 11% of the voters thought a tax cut was a good idea. The rest were divided about evenly between those who wanted it to go to schools and those who want it to go to our roads.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

To successfully emerge from bankruptcy, Detroit has to find ways to cut spending and increase revenue. But that’s not going to be easy when so many Detroit residents are struggling just to get by.

No matter how well bankruptcy goes for Detroit, the city is going nowhere if most of its residents are broke and without jobs.

No jobs mean no income taxes for the city.

WFIU Public Radio / Creative Commons

Voters in Grand Rapids could get a chance to vote on an income tax extension this year. The city wants to extend a temporary income tax hike to maintain roads and sidewalks.

Grand Rapids voters approved the temporary income tax hike in 2010. It’s paid for a number of projects that will lower the overall cost of running city government. That increase will expire in 2015.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A southwest Michigan city under state control will decide whether to impose a new city income tax in Tuesday's election. An emergency manager has been running Benton Harbor since March 2010.

If the proposal passes, people who live or work in Benton Harbor will pay a small percentage of their income to the city government. More than 20 other Michigan cities have an income tax.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Tony Saunders is breaking months of silence on a proposed city income tax. Saunders says he has some concerns about the proposal.

“I want to make sure we have a strong climate for business investment here. Also, you know this is one of the poorest cities in Michigan, so the last thing I want to see is our citizens being taxed once again when they’re already struggling to make ends meet,” Saunders said.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint may have found about a million dollars in uncollected tax revenue.

Flint Emergency Manager Mike Brown says a check of tax records shows about six thousand Flint residents paid state income taxes last year, but didn’t pay the city income tax.

“Obviously, this is unfair to those folks who do pay their taxes in this city,” says Brown, “We just want to make sure that folks who are working here are filing income tax.”

Flint could use the extra cash.

Republican state Representative Bob Genetski
Photo courtesy of Rep. Genetski's office

How would you like to say farewell to the state income tax?

State Representative Bob Genetski is a Republican from Saugatuck, and he thinks we should do just that.

He has introduced House Bill 4898, which Representative Genetski is calling the “Taxpayer Freedom Act,” and it would allow voters to decide whether to keep the state income tax or get rid of it.

Representative Bob Genetski joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Saunteel Jenkins replaces Charles Pugh as Detroit City Council President

"Saunteel Jenkins is the new President of the Detroit City Council. The Council voted on new leadership after it lost its two former top officials. Jenkins replaces Charles Pugh, who has vanished from the public eye amidst allegations of a questionable relationship with a teenager," Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports.

Proposed legislation would let voters eliminate income tax

Republican state Representative Bob Genetski is sponsoring legislation that would let voters decide whether to get rid of the state's income tax.

"He supports raising the state’s sale’s tax to make up for the lost revenue. Former director of the state House Fiscal Agency Mitch Bean says the plan would leave an $8.5 billion dollar hole in next year’s state budget," Jake Neher reports.

Orr cancels bus tour with creditors

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has canceled a planned bus tour meant to convince Wall Street creditors that the city's condition is dire and they should accept big losses on its debt.

"Orr says the tour could be rescheduled. But it increasingly seems that his negotiations with creditors are hitting a wall. City Council member Ken Cockrel echoes what many think--that resistance from creditors is speeding up Detroit’s timeline for a possible bankruptcy filing," Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The city of Benton Harbor has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager for more than three years. Now some elected leaders in the state’s poorest city are proposing a new way to raise revenue.

Benton Harbor has done a lot to try to get out of debt; laid off workers, combined the police and fire departments, restructured its loans. But City Commissioner Trenton Bowens is convinced the city of roughly 10,000 people needs a citywide income tax.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is hoping to collect some unpaid city income taxes. The money could help reduce Flint’s crushing budget deficit.

The city of Flint is struggling to reduce its $19 million budget deficit.

To chip away at part of that, city officials plan to pressure people who haven’t paid their city income taxes for a while.

The city estimates that it’s owed between $300,000 and $400,000 in unpaid income taxes for just 2010.

Stateside: Changes to tax refunds may come as a surprise to some

Jan 29, 2013
wikimedia commons

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

For those who have not yet completed your 2012 tax returns- brace yourselves.

In 2011 Governor Snyder signed a tax overhaul package that included $1.4 billion  in additional income taxes and $1.7 billion in business tax cuts.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Some Michigan cities that collect an income tax might soon see a revenue boost.

A state lawmaker wants to increase the tax rate cities can charge.

State representative Andy Schor is looking at lifting the current state cap on city income tax rates.   Four cities (Detroit, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Highland Park) are already allowed to collect more than the 1% limit on city residents and  .5% on non-city residents.

Detroit attempts to increase revenue with income tax amnesty plan

Jan 17, 2013
Kate Davidson / Michigan Radio

On Tuesday, the city of Detroit will begin an income tax amnesty program in an attempt to recoup lost revenue.

The program will allow individuals and companies to pay off outstanding debts without penalty if done so before February 16.

Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press has more:

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

The so-called quick response vehicles are a cross between a four-wheel-drive SUV used to respond to medical emergencies, and fire engines with all the equipment to put out fires.

Grand Rapids’ Deputy Fire Chief Frank Verburg says the department will deploy three of the quick response vehicles for now. They have a 300-gallon water tank and a small fire suppression foam system.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state House committee today approved speeding up an income tax break for Michigan taxpayers.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Mackinac Policy Conference kicks off today

The annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway today on Mackinac Island. The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and has been taking place since 1981. It's a place where policy makers, politicians, and business and thought leaders get together to discuss ideas and policies that could shape Michigan's future.

Conference organizers hope to "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market" at this year's conference.

If you feel compelled to tweet about the event this week, the hashtag for the conference is #mpc12.

Michigan Governor Snyder will deliver welcoming comments today at 3:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta will bring us updates from the conference. You can also watch online coverage of the event sponsored by Detroit Public Television.

Update on wildfires in the Upper Peninsula

The AP reports that the 3,400-acre Pine Creek North wildfire in Schoolcraft County is mostly contained:

Officials say some crews are leaving the area as mop-up operations continue. Firefighters on Tuesday planned to patrol the perimeter of the fire looking for hot spots.

The wildfire was ignited by lightning and first reported on May 21.

However, the Duck Lake Fire continues to burn. More from CNN wire services:

The Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres and is still going despite recent rains, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported on its website.The state agency estimated Monday the blaze is about 51% contained, thanks to progress made by firefighters in maintaining a firm perimeter.

Moving up income tax cut called a "gimmick"

The Michigan House of Representatives will begin taking up plans today to move a planned income tax cut up by a few months.

The tax rate will drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent next January. The Associated Press reports Michigan House Republicans want to start the tax cut in October 2012.

House Republican Speaker Jase Bolger wants to return $90 million from a budget surplus to taxpayers. The tax rate would drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent.

The Michigan League for Human Services says the move is an election-year gimmick. It says the money would be better spent offering preschool or dental care to low-income children.

Democrats say tax changes passed last year by GOP lawmakers will require that individuals pay $1.4 billion more in taxes next year. They say the $90 million cut is insufficient.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House plans to begin consideration of measures moving up an income tax cut from January to October and increasing how much income someone can earn before taxes kick in.

Tax Time

Apr 15, 2012
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The clock is ticking if you haven’t filed your state and federal income tax returns.   But there’s still time.

April 15th is usually the day taxpayers must file their income tax forms by.

But since April 15th fell on a Sunday this year, and because of a Washington D.C.  holiday (Emancipation Day) falls on April 16th, the Internal Revenue Service decided to make April 17th the deadline for this year.

Caleb Buhs is with the Michigan Treasury Department.     He says most of the returns filed this year have received refunds.