taxes

Commentary
12:46 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Scrooge and the Budget

What if the governor increased the amount of Michigan income tax I had to pay by ten dollars a week?  The truth is, I’d barely miss it, and if I went out to eat a little less often, I wouldn’t miss it at all.

I’m not anything close to rich, but fortunately, I manage to make an income adequate for my family’s needs, and don’t have any children who need to go to camp or college.

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Offbeat
5:09 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Airport in Sturgis, Michigan flooded by callers seeking tax advice

Search for IRS in Google Maps and you find the airport in Sturgis, Michigan.
Google Maps

Don't have the phone number? Just Google it.

That modern day phenomenon led callers seeking information from the Internal Revenue Service to accidentally dial a small airport in Sturgis, Michigan.

The FAA airport code for Kirsch Municipal Airport in Sturgis is "IRS."

If you type in a search for IRS on Google Maps, you'll get the airport's phone number.

Andrian Chen wrote about the mix-up on Gawker.com:

"The phone calls started two months ago, and it was just a trickle at first. Since then it's grown to a deluge of "20 to 50 calls a day" from people with tax questions, according to a weary-sounding office manager named Becky who took the time to talk to us this afternoon...

The calls haven't been a huge issue, Becky says, but she's getting sick of them. "It's just irritating," she said. "Most of them calling aren't the most intelligent, calling us at 7pm on the weekends. And it's like, do you seriously think the IRS is going to answer their phone at 7 on a Sunday?"

Becky will be glad when tax day ends at midnight tonight.

She may, or may not know, that if you need to file an extension, form 4868 is the paperwork you seek.

State Legislature
7:44 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Snyder, Republican leaders come to a tax deal

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the state House and Senate have come to a tentative tax deal
Ifmuth Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the Legislature have struck a tentative bargain on tax reform and the state budget. The plan delays an October 1st income tax rollback and includes a compromise on taxing pensions.

Michigan is one of just a handful of states that does not tax pensions. The deal between Governor Snyder and GOP leaders would shield people 67 years old and older from a pension tax. The governor originally wanted to tax all pensions, but he says compromises were necessary. Governor Snyder:

“So it’s a transitional plan that I think addresses the shorter-term requirements while being structurally sound for the long term.”

The plan also calls for scrapping the complicated and unpopular Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate income tax. That’s part of an overall tax cut for most businesses to spur job creation.

The plan would eliminate the tax break for working poor families, but offer some new tax relief for low-income homeowners and renters.

The plan must still be approved by the House and the Senate.

Politics
4:57 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Can the state tax medical marijuana?

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Treasury Department says medical marijuana cannot be taxed in Michigan without a change in the law. The medical marijuana law was enacted by voters in 2008. But the law is silent on the question of taxing medical marijuana dispensed by licensed clinics and caregivers.  

James Campbell is an accountant who asked for the opinion. He says the state has not been taxing dispensaries and caregivers. But Campbell says he could not be sure that wouldn’t change.

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Economy
11:02 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Happy 'Tax Freedom Day' Michigan

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today is Michigan’s Tax Freedom Day. It’s the day when the average Michigander will have earned enough money to pay their local, state and federal taxes for the year.  That’s three weeks earlier than it used to be mainly because people are earning less money because of the recession. 

Kail Padgitt is with the Tax Foundation, which produces the annual Tax Freedom Day list. He says Michigan’s local and state taxes are higher than most other states.

 “But when we look at federal taxes…Michigan actually paid  a little less in federal taxes due to the (state’s) high unemployment...leading to lower income taxes …federal income taxes.”

Padgitt says as the nation’s economy improves, special federal tax breaks expire and more Michiganders find work, Michigan’s tax freedom day will shift back to the end of April or maybe the beginning of May.

Education
3:55 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

2 ex-Eastern Michigan University students may have used stolen IDs to file fradulent tax returns

Federal authorities investigate security breach at EMU
John-Morgan creative commons

Eastern Michigan University officials say two of its former student employees may have filed fake tax returns using other students’ personal information.

The two students were already under investigation for allegedly stealing 58 student records.

Walter Kraft is VP of communications for EMU. He says now six more students have come forward to say their personal information was stolen:

"Apparently what happened in this case is that the student records were used for the purpose of filing fraudulent tax returns in order for someone to obtain a tax return to which they were not entitled."

Kraft says EMU police and federal authorities are investigating the two former student employees, whose identities have not been released.

He says EMU already does background checks on student employees, and is looking to see what other steps can be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

 Nearly 2,000 EMU students currently work for the university.

State Legislature
6:35 am
Thu March 31, 2011

The debate over social issues during a budget crunch

Captiol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Thetoad Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants controversial social questions to take a back seat to taxes and job-creation. He says to do otherwise could create intense debates that enflame passions and sideline his efforts to fix Michigan’s economy.

But that has not stopped some of his fellow Republicans in the Legislature. They say GOP control of state government makes this the moment to tackle controversies surrounding abortion, gun control, illegal immigration, and medical marijuana.

Governor Rick Snyder meets up with his inner nerd every morning as he checks an electronic application that reminds him how much time is left before the budget deadline he set for the Legislature—May 31st.:

 “All I have to do is turn on my iPad and it shows me how many days and hours are left, and how many seconds…”

Snyder says he is singularly focused on completing the budget before that time on his iPad runs out. He has proposed massive cuts and tax reforms that would affect the budget. He says right now that should be the focus of everyone’s energy at the state Capitol. He’s finding some people – including Republicans – disagree. State Senator Rick Jones is one of those Republicans:

 “My job is looking at other issues that concern Michiganders."

Jones says the Legislature is working very hard on Snyder’s budget proposals and goals. But he says that does not mean lawmakers cannot and should not also work on social issues. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee he recently took up and voted on a controversial abortion bill that is already covered by federal law. And he sponsored a measure that would add rules to the use of medical marijuana. Jones:

“The issues we take up, are issues where I could walk into any coffee shop in my district and the vast majority agree that it’s something we need to address."

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State Legislature
6:38 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Lt. Gov says tax plan debate will continue through break

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says negotations over the state budget will continue in Lansing even though lawmakers are on a two-week break
Ifmuth Flickr

State lawmakers have begun their two-week spring break, but many of them say they will still be in Lansing working on budget issues. That includes negotiating with Governor Rick Snyder on tax reforms.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says he expects lawmakers to meet Governor Snyder’s May 31st deadline to complete work on the budget.

“Any time that we waste right now adds time on the back end, and we really owe all the constituencies who depend on state an answer before we get to the same type of timeframe that we’ve dealt with in the past. So, it’s not really fair to put these things off until fall or even late summer.”

Snyder has proposed a tax on pensions, a new corporate income tax to replace the Michigan Business Tax, and scaling back tax credits.

Calley told lawmakers that if they don’t like Snyder’s plan, they need to put something else on the table that will help end the budget deficit.

Republicans in the Senate are expected to unveil a plan that includes an expanded corporate income tax, and to hold off on taxing pensions.

Changing Gears
12:26 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Local governments face more losses as cases pile up in tax courts

Donald Betlem bought this home for $5,000 in 2008. He had to convince Detroit it wasn't worth ten times as much.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Property values have plummeted across the region.

That means cities and towns have watched their tax revenue plunge as well. But many homeowners and businesses think their property taxes are still too high.

The result is a double hit.

Local governments are in fiscal crisis, and the tax courts of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois are clogged with people who want refunds.

People like Donald Betlem.

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Politics
9:17 am
Fri March 18, 2011

Report: How Snyder's tax plan would affect you

Your state taxes are likely to change.
Allan Cleaver Flickr

Ever since Governor Rick Snyder released his budget plan last month, people have been looking at the details and wondering how they might be affected by the plans.

For people with pensions and the working poor, it's been clear, you would pay more if Snyder's plan is approved. But how much more?

The Detroit Free Press, in a series of reports, is seeking to break down the numbers. In their first report What Snyder's income tax plan means for you they summarize their findings this way:

Parents with low-paying jobs would stop getting state income supplements worth as much as $1,000.

High-income retirees with generous pensions would pay thousands of dollars more.

But taxpayers in brackets that cover most Michiganders would see little change in their state income tax bill under Gov. Rick Snyder's sweeping proposals.

The Freep provides some detailed examples of how the tax proposals might affect certain people.

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Budget protests
9:58 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Rallies against Governor Snyder’s proposed budget continue

Rich Fink addresses the crowd in the Heritage Hill neighborhood Tuesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

More than 60 people in Grand Rapids rallied against Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts Tuesday night. Protestors took over a normally quite block in a residential neighborhood.

Speaking into a microphone and speaker set up on a sidewalk, Rich Fink told the crowd he’s a proud member of the Jenison Education Association.

“They are after the middle class and it’s time that we say enough is enough.”

Their signs say they’ve had enough of cuts to public education, fair wages, benefits and most prominently Governor Snyder.

60-year old retired General Motors worker Gregg Shotwell is not against balancing the budget. But he says Snyder’s plan to create jobs by lowering taxes for businesses won’t work. 

“They’re not going to use that tax break to create jobs. Because there’s not going to be greater demand for their products or their services if we’re all making less money.”

Snyder says replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a flat 6% tax on corporate income is "simple fair and efficient."

Shotwell was among many other retired UAW workers who are very upset about Snyder’s plan to tax pensions. But Shotwell says the proposed cuts to public education is what brought him out to the protest.

“Our children are the future and you can’t expect to improve the state of Michigan, improve our economic future if you’re going to sabotage education and this is sabotage.”

If lawmakers approve Snyder’s budget, state funding to public universities would be cut 15 percent. K through 12 schools would be cut by a little more than 4 percent.

Budget Protests
1:41 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Protests heat up for the week at state Capitol

About a thousand protesters gathered on the state Capitol lawn today and they say there will be more people joining them throughout the week.

They are protesting many budget proposals from Governor Rick Snyder and in the Legislature, including a plan to tax pensions.

Hundreds of people from AARP chanted loudly in opposition to Governor Snyder’s proposal to tax pensions to help end the budget deficit.

Many people held signs that read: “Recall Governor Snyder,” and “Recall The Nerd.”

Jeanette Stang held a sign that read “One-Term Nerd.”

Stang says her husband worked in an auto plant for 37 years, and now they have trouble making ends meet with increasing medical expenses and living off of their pension. Their Flint home is up for sale, and both of their adult sons have already moved out of state:

"Our sons both would not come to Michigan. They said Michigan has gone to pieces...Michigan used to be a beautiful state, and Michigan has really gone downhill…All he wants to do is keep taxing the little guy—tax these bigwigs that have their yachts and have their trips and everything else. Let the people who earned this money and worked hard all their life have their pensions and quick taxing us to death."

Snyder says seniors use government services just like all other taxpayers, and should be taxed on their pension income accordingly.

More protests coming

Labor movement protests at the state Capitol are expected to get bigger and louder as the week goes on and the Legislature votes on controversial issues.

The House is expected to give final approval to a package of bills that would give emergency financial managers more control over struggling communities and school districts, and strip control from local unions.

Budget Protests
1:09 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Seniors rally in Lansing against pension tax

Retired Battle Creek school teacher Connie Cole Burland waves a sign at a state Capitol rally to oppose Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to tax pensions.
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio Network

Hundreds of senior citizens gathered in front of the state Capitol today to protest Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to tax pensions.

Michigan is one of four states that does not collect an income on pensions. Snyder’s proposal would change that.

Connie Cole Burland, a retired Battle Creek school teacher, says it’s not fair to ask her to pay more if Snyder follows through on his plan to cut taxes for most businesses.

 "We gave them 40-plus years of service. We had a deal when we retired, and this is tax hike. You can call it whatever you want, but this is a tax hike. We had a deal."

Governor Snyder says it’s reasonable to ask retirees with good pensions to pay the income tax when younger people with smaller incomes have to pay it.

He says it is part of the “shared sacrifice” necessary to fix Michigan’s budget troubles.

Some Republican lawmakers are looking for an alternative to taxing pensions.

Politics
11:21 am
Mon March 7, 2011

AARP organizing rally to oppose tax on pensions

AARP is organizing a rally to be held in Lansing
nasaimages

Organizers for AARP Michigan say their rally will be held on the east steps of the State Capitol Building on March 15th from 11 a.m. to 1p.m..

From the AARP Michigan blog:

The rally was the brainchild of AARP member and retiree Mary Lee Woodward of Oxford, who launched the effort on Facebook with the help of her daughter.  Woodward says she's heard from thousands of seniors who say new taxes on their pensions and other income will make it difficult to pay their bills. Many also object to elimination of a tax credit for low-income working families, and proposed cuts to schools, universities and local police and fire protection and road maintenance.

State Legislature
10:54 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Pension tax alternatives on the table for legislators this week

Michigan Senators plan to discuss alternatives to a pension tax this week
user lincolnblues Flickr

Michigan legislators are planning to discuss alternatives to Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposals this week.

One hot button issue is Snyder's plan to place a tax on pensions. That tax is estimated to raise $900 million.

It would go a long way in eliminating the state's budget deficit which is estimated around $1.5 billion.

It's angered a lot of seniors, and lobbying groups, like the AARP, are putting pressure on legislators in Lansing to keep the tax exemption on pensions in place (the AARP plans to hold a rally in Lansing on March 15th).

Laura Weber, with the Michigan Public Radio Network reported that Michigan Senate Republicans are meeting early this week to try to come up with alternatives to the pension tax plan.

Weber spoke with Republican State Senator Tory Rocca who said his opposition to taxing pensions is simple:

"It’s a tax increase, and on top of that it’s a tax increase on senior citizens, and if you look at what their cost of living is and what their cost of living increases are, they tend to have a higher cost-of-living increase than other people because a lot of their cost-of-living is weighted toward health care, which does increase at a rate greater than the rate of inflation every year."

The Associated Press reports that State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville didn't say whether Snyder's pension tax plan had enough support to win approval.

But he did say that if legislators want to scrap the tax plan, they'll have to find money elsewhere. From the AP:

Richardville said that if the Senate opposes pieces of Snyder's proposal they will have to balance it out by cutting programs or finding revenues somewhere else within the budget.

That's $900 million more, which could mean more proposals out of Lansing for bigger cuts.

Investigative
10:05 am
Fri March 4, 2011

State income tax on pensions

Seniors drawing pensions could be taxed under Governor Snyder's new tax proposal.
Flickr

When he presented his budget to the legislature, Governor Snyder explained part of the shared sacrifice would be taxing public and private pensions.  There is no state income tax on pensions right now.  The Governor noted, retirees still use government services.  He also said there are some retirees who are still working, paying the current 4.35% in state income taxes.  He said taxing pensions is a matter of fairness to people of retirement age who are still working.

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Investigative
12:21 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

Eliminating business tax credits

Alan Cleaver Flickr

Update 12:21 p.m.

The State of Michigan will have to honor some tax credits for years to come because of contractual obligations.  In a speech today, Governor Snyder indicated over the next four years, the state was on the hook for $2-billion dollars in credits.  About $500-million of that is in next year's budget. 

March 2nd, 8:23a.m.

Governor Snyder says his approach to taxes in Michigan is “simple, fair, and efficient.”  One way the Governor wants to make the tax structure more fair is by eliminating all tax credits for business.  It’s a controversial move which surprised many people in Lansing.

Read more
Politics
5:31 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Snyder defends budget and tax plans

Rick Snyder campaigns last year. Now, Governor Rick Snyder is having to campaign for his budget proposals.
Bill Rice Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is defending some of his controversial budget plans.

He says taxing pensions is the right thing to do, even though some Republican lawmakers say they will not support that plan.

And Governor Snyder says his proposal to cut funding for universities by 15% this year is necessary, but he says it will get better for the schools in the future:

"We shouldn't have to walk away from our universities. Again, I'm a big, long-term advocate of we need more students going through our universities. Higher Ed is very important in our state, actually we're a very fortunate state in having the high-quality institutions that we have.

We have a tough budget situation and we need to deal with that, but if you look forward to 2013 we’re able to show that hopefully this is the bottom point in terms of where we go with higher education funding."

Snyder also told building-trade union members that he wants to work with unions to help balance the budget, not against them.

He says he is not interested in Republican proposals in the Legislature to strip unions of their power.

Economy
10:46 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Why don't YOU fix the state's budget woes?

The Center for Michigan wants you to play their game.
Image from the Center for Michigan's website

Try your hand at fixing the state's budget problems.

The Center for Michigan has released an interactive state budget calculator - YOU Fix the Budget.

The idea is similar to the New York Times interactive budget calculator for the federal government.

You can start by adding $1.2 billion to the state's budget woes by cutting business taxes, or you can leave business taxes alone and deal with the current budget hole the Center estimates at $1.4 billion.

Once you start, your options are to cut, cut, cut (cuts to education, cuts general government, cuts to prison and police, cuts to the public workforce, and cuts to welfare and health care) - or - you could raise taxes.

So far, of the 300 or so people who have participated - raising the Beer Tax is the most popular option.

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film incentives
7:49 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Study looks at Michigan film incentives

People wait for tickets during Traverse City's film festival.
Andrew McFarlane Creative Commons

A new study shows Michigan’s tax incentives for the TV and film industry generated close to 4,000 fulltime jobs last year with an average salary of $53,700.  

Larry Alexander is President & CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, one of several bureaus across the state that helped commission the study.

“Diversifying Michigan’s economy by investing $84.7 million- and generating over a half a billion dollars of economic activity and nearly 4,000 high paying jobs- sounds like a pretty good deal to us.”

Rick Hert heads the West Michigan Film Office. He says talk about limiting the film incentives in the past reached Hollywood and caused some producers decide not to come to Michigan.

 “This is much bigger. This is a new governor of the state of Michigan and his comments are doing more than reverberating, they’re putting a clamp on the future of this industry.”

Hert is thankful the governor didn’t totally remove the incentives, but worries they’ll be too limited to keep attracting producers.

Hert says he understands the state is broke and that legislators have some tough calls to make.

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