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State of California November 5, 2002 Election
Smart Voter


By Bill Leonard

Candidate for Member; California State Board of Equalization; District 2

This information is provided by the candidate
Many Californians are surprised to hear that our state has an elected tax board. The surprise is pleasant because whether you pay individual income taxes or taxes for your business, it is a good idea to have an independently elected board to which you can take your tax concerns or appeal the decision of a tax bureaucrat.

The bad news is that California's tax system is so complex that this elected board does not oversee all of the state's taxes, nor is it the only agency that has access to your private financial information. The good news is that I have introduced a bill, ACA13, to correct these problems.

Currently, three separate state agencies collect taxes. The Franchise Tax Board oversees the collection of personal income taxes. Most of us are familiar with this agency because we make our annual check out to the FTB. However, the Franchise Tax Board is NOT an independently elected board and it is not constitutionally required to meet. In fact, I understand that it has not met in the last nine months. That does not offer much protection to the taxpayer.

The Employment Development Department collects employment taxes from businesses. The EDD is only a bureaucracy. There is no elected official directly overseeing its function or its staff, and that means when you have a problem with the way EDD has handled your taxes, you are left at the mercy of the bureaucrats.

The Board of Equalization is actually an independently elected board that does meet regularly and can directly handle taxpayers' concerns about taxes. Currently, the Board oversees sales and use taxes, as well as other business and property taxes, and is the appellate authority for your income taxes. The Board has four members elected by district throughout the state. The fifth member of the Board is the State Controller. The Board dates back to the 1870s, but its name no longer explains its function and many taxpayers are left thinking they have no elected officials to help them with tax problems.

My ACA 13 proposes that we consolidate these three taxing agencies under one new agency: the California Tax Commission. The Commission would remain an independently elected Board accountable to you, the taxpayers and the voters. All of the state's taxing functions would be streamlined under the CTC. Not only would this eliminate confusion, but also it would increase the convenience to taxpayers and the effectiveness of the state, as well as result in long-term savings. It would also reduce the number of state agencies and bureaucrats who have access to your personal financial information.

Such a consolidation has been approved by the Legislature before. Assembly Bill 15, introduced by Assemblyman Klehs and Assemblyman Andal in 1993, passed the Assembly by 75-1 and the Senate by 29-2. AB 15 also received support from Cal-Tax and the California Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, AB 15 was vetoed by then- Governor Pete Wilson. Governor Wilson favored streamlining, but preferred that the tax authority remain under the Governor rather than with an independently elected board.

It is time to streamline California's tax system and provide greater accountability and service to the taxpayers. You need elected officials who specialize in resolving tax problems, who are motivated by fairness in tax collection, and who can ride herd over bureaucrats. ACA 13 and the California Tax Commission will accomplish this for you.

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