State Sen. Roger Thompson has been appointed to a national task force examining local and state revenues. Oklahoma State Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz nominated Thompson to serve on the National Conference of State Legislatures Task Force on State and Local Taxation.
Thompson is the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance—the primary committee that considers legislation dealing with taxes in Oklahoma. He said the task force will be an excellent resource for information about taxes, changes in the economy, and the impact on consumers, businesses and core government services.
“Just like Oklahoma, states throughout the country are struggling with many of the same issues. Our tax laws need to be adapted to changes in the economy and how business is done,” said Thompson, R-Okemah. “The growth of online shopping is just one example. It puts our local stores at a big disadvantage because they are required to include sales tax when purchases are made. Most of these retailers will tell you they’ve lost business because internet purchases often include no sales taxes. It also hurts the many services and programs funded at the local and state levels.”
A study by the University of Tennessee said that in 2012, Oklahoma lost out on an estimated $296.4 million in uncollected taxes. Of that, $163 million was lost at the state level, and $133 million at the local level. Thompson said because of federal laws on out-of-state sellers, the state does not have the authority to force those companies to collect sales taxes on purchases from within Oklahoma.
“We did approve legislation last session to require the Oklahoma Tax Commission to notify more out-of-state retailers about their responsibility to collect and remit Oklahoma sales taxes. It also requires internet companies to send customers an annual summary of their purchases and remind them that they are required to pay taxes on those purchases,” Thompson said. “If the federal law changes, this will help us take advantage of that. This isn’t a new tax—it’s just that federal law has prevented Oklahoma, and other states, from collecting it from big internet sites and companies.”
Thompson said by serving on the state and local taxation task force, he’d be able to interact with legislators from across the country and learn how they are addressing similar issues and bring some of those concepts back to Oklahoma.
“We already know we are facing another significant budget shortfall this session. It continues to be driven by several factors including job losses and production decreases in the energy industry, the increase in off-the-top funding, and the need to continue efforts to reform tax preferences that do not promote economic growth and job creation,” Thompson said. “The more information we have, the better we’ll be able to approach these challenges, so I am extremely pleased to have been appointed to this task force.”
Thompson will attend his first meeting later this month in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“I think it is important for our tax system to be fair and straightforward for citizens and for us to make sure the changes don’t hurt economic growth,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, we must have adequate resources for our schools, public safety, health and mental health and transportation infrastructure.”