The Edmond Sun

November 2, 2012

OUR VIEW: Say yes to SQ 766

The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — State Question 766 poses one of the most drastic questions for voters to consider in state history. The language of this state question requires voters to say either yes, they don’t want a tax increase, or no, they do want one.

Stemming from a court case for Southwestern Bell, now owned by AT&T, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision altered how intangible property such as patents, trademarks, ideas, etc. potentially can be taxed in Oklahoma. Currently, there are a handful of centrally assessed (or taxed) corporations in Oklahoma such as AT&T. The tax those companies pay on intangibles has been estimated by some to be more than $50 million annually. The rest of Oklahoma’s business community has paid a $25 BAT tax for the past two years that they could turn around and claim on their state taxes and be exempted from their tax bill.

The problem is that the court decision opens up the intangibles tax to every business entity in Oklahoma, meaning every mom and pop place on up to the AT&Ts of the world will pay the intangibles tax.

That may sound like a windfall for the state — if it can even figure out how to fairly assess and collect such a tax in all 77 counties. It mostly sounds to us like an ongoing judicial nightmare as businesses large and small encounter new tax burdens and are forced to seek relief in the courts.

Proponents of letting the intangibles tax go into effect on everyone have argued that if the we don’t we’re robbing education of millions of ad valorem taxes. That argument just doesn’t come out in the wash. You’re not losing millions of dollars on a tax that has not been collected from everyone. Does eliminating the intangibles tax lift the tax burden on those centrally assessed companies? Yes. But it in no way bankrupts education and other services from funds it wasn’t receiving anyway from the rest of us.

In fact, by not taxing the rest of us for intangibles, that leaves more dollars in our pockets to donate to the PTOs, PTAs and school foundations as well as charitable organizations that do so much to help our children receive a better education already.

We strongly encourage voters to say yes to SQ 766 and keep our already burdensome tax situation from becoming even more difficult.