November 14, 2007 - Nation's Tax
Experts to Converge on Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio’s state capital will
also play the part of the nation’s tax capital for three days
this week when it hosts the National Tax Association’s 100th
Annual Conference on Taxation.
The conference, to take place at the Hyatt on Capitol Square
on Thursday through Saturday, is expected to lure 300 of the
nation’s leading tax academics and tax administrators to
Columbus for discussions on tax theory, practice and policy.
The Buckeye State will be well represented. During a Friday
luncheon, Ohio Tax Commissioner Richard A. Levin will discuss
Ohio’s ongoing tax reform efforts, including a repeal of the
tangible personal property tax that has been a “sore thumb”
of Ohio taxation for decades. Two other Ohio Department of
Taxation administrators plan to share methods for forecasting
revenue for Ohio’s new commercial activity tax (CAT), which
is gradually replacing two older business taxes: the tangible
personal property tax and the corporate franchise tax.
Overall, the convention marks a return to the roots of the
National Tax Association, a nonpartisan, nonpolitical
organization that was launched 100 years ago at the
invitation of then-Ohio Governor Andrew L. Harris.
Unhappiness with Ohio’s tax system – particularly personal
property taxes on everything from household items to
investments such as stocks and bonds – was strong when
Governor Harris invited governors of all 44 other states to
Ohio for a national discussion of state and local taxation.
At least 33 states and three Canadian provinces sent state
officials to Columbus, where several governors were joined by
dozens of academics and tax administrators from Nov. 12-15,
“City a mecca of economists,” declared a front page headline
in the Ohio State Journal. Local
media gave the conference front page coverage throughout the
week – coverage which shows some striking similarities
between then and now when it comes to taxes.
One of the themes of the 1907 conference was the need for
greater uniformity in state and local tax laws. “The absence
of any broad, rational, logical, uniform system of taxation
for city, state, and nation is not only unjust theoretically,
but absolutely destructive to intelligent voting on the
merits of government, the very foundation stone of any
republic,” Massachusetts Governor Curtis Guild Jr. told the
convention. Guild urged tax laws that “bear more easily on
the weak, more heavily on the strong, but at least so
universally that weak and strong may alike appreciate when
government is bad and when it is good.”
Uniformity remains an issue today; it is at the heart of a
multistate effort, called the Streamlined Sales Tax Project,
intended to make sales tax laws more uniform across state
But there were major differences between then and now, too.
In 1907, sales tax uniformity wasn’t an issue because most
states didn’t have sales taxes. There was no federal income
tax and no federal estate or inheritance tax (although
President Theodore Roosevelt had recently proposed one).
Back then, much of Ohio’s state and local tax revenue was
from the property tax – including taxes on personal property
such as furniture and household goods. And while Ohioans’
unhappiness with personal property taxes prompted that first
National Tax Association convention, reform of the personal
property tax was a slow process.
It wasn’t until 1929 that the Ohio Constitution was amended
to allow personal property to be taxed differently than land
and buildings. Two years later, the Ohio General Assembly
eliminated taxes on tangible personal property – such as cars
and household appliances – unless it was used in business.
Tangible personal property continues to be taxed when used in
business in Ohio, but this practice will largely come to an
end next year, when businesses pay their last personal
property tax bills as part of reforms enacted in 2005.
Levin, the Ohio tax commissioner, said the ideas presented at
this year’s conference may not make today’s or tomorrow’s
headlines, but they will have lasting influence.
“This conference isn’t going to mean policy changes next
month or even next year,” Levin said. “But the cutting-edge
ideas discussed these next few days may become conventional
wisdom 10 or 20 years from now.”
Note: For more information on the National Tax
Association, including a schedule of its events in
Columbus, visit www.ntanet.org.
# # #
For more information, contact John Kohlstrand at (614)
644-3858 or Mike McKinney at (614) 466-5461.