Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Return to tax justice

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County homeowners who're feeling the pain of fast-rising home assessments and taxes no longer must suffer in silence. The Idaho Legislative Council on Property Taxes is in Hailey most of today listening to horror stories that could bring relief with changes in state law.

The trend in Blaine County of home ownership being affordable by only the wealthy is punitive—not what a system of taxation was meant to produce.

Now's the time to be heard, to sound off—and to weigh in with solid options for more equitable taxes.

Idaho's regressive law on property taxes has become a virtual eviction notice for some longtime residents here. They made modest investments in homes, only to find that the boom in multi-million dollar second homes automatically escalated their property values and taxes and has driven them to the edge of desperation.

One of the biggest injustices in this system is that resort-area real estate transactions, today driven in large part by investor speculation, are not taxed at all at the local level. Investors get off Scot-free because Idaho, unlike Colorado, prohibits cities and counties from levying real estate transfer taxes.

Why? That's a question this Legislative Council should answer.

Real estate sales are an industry, like any other, especially when property is bought and sold like pork bellies. It makes no sense for Idaho to tax family meals at the checkout stand, but continue to fail to tax real estate transactions.

The Legislature should loosen the reins on cities and counties to allow them to impose impact fees and real estate transfer taxes. This would lift much of the burden now piled on longtime homeowners and be a return to tax justice.

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