Seeking Property Tax Options

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - March 21, 2007
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An anti-tax protest at the capital
An anti-tax protest at the capital

Many Mainland visitors to my 1,500-square-foot Banyan House on 8,740 square feet of land are surprised at how little property tax they perceive that I pay - about $3,500 a year.

Homeowners in my old high school and college haunt of St. Petersburg, Fla., are paying $6,000 for a $250,000 tract house. But no income tax. We pay between 1.4 and 8.25 percent.

Property tax is the tax we all love to hate.

It is, however, the most stable source for our city to get the money it needs for the services we demand. Economists endorse it. But most never anticipated the sizzling hot assessments we’ve seen in Hawaii.

Assuming the city budget cannot be trimmed that much, there are some taxing alternatives. See if any of this grabs you anti-tax sign wavers.

The simple solution would be for us to ask for - and the Legislature to grant - an increased local sales or excise tax beyond that extra half percent we’re paying for mass transit. Or a city-imposed additional resort/hotel room tax. Many cities do that. They whack all lodging, restaurants, fast food stores, bars, night clubs, alcoholic beverages by the drink, and luxury-goods retailers aiming at tourists. There’s a 15.08 percent state-city tax on a hotel/motel room in St. Louis. In New York City, it’s 21 percent.

Another option: We can emulate states that use property acquisition value as the tax basis.

Real property, such as a home or a business, is valued for tax purposes at its market value as of some base year. If the property is sold after that year, the taxable value is what the new owner pays.

Increases for unsold properties held for a certain time could be capped at perhaps 2-5 percent a year. The elderly (75-plus) with earned and unearned income under a certain level (proven by their tax returns) would never get a hike on a long-held house.

This makes sense to commissions that have studied taxation because it doesn’t stifle revenue, and those not selling get protection.

Would you tax activists rally with your signs for that?


three star

So you think the Hawaii Superferry should have a full environmental impact study on the effect of disgorging passengers and vehicles at harbors, plus potentially transporting species inter-island and bumping whales?

That’s OK ... so long as you also think we need a retro study of the same effects from Young Brothers, Hawaiian Tug and Barge, the inter-island and Mainland air carriers, Matson and Norwegian Cruise Lines.

I mean, there’s real impact! Shouldn’t we be steam-washing every car off the freighters and barges and sole-scrubbing the shoes of each passenger/crew member alighting from a plane or ship?

Shouldn’t we worry about all those air travelers impacting our roads as they depart terminals in their rental cars?

Young Brothers’ new barge Kaholo hauls 400 cars (the Superferry is just 380) and nobody’s yelling about it ruining the aina.

Makes me wonder who got to state Sens. English, Hooser, Kokubun and Tsutsui.

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