Tax transparency

To make informed decisions, Kansans need signs to know exact locations of special tax districts.

August 28, 2011


In this day and age when taxes are receiving as much attention as ever, you would expect our political leaders to insist on transparency for the taxes we do pay.

But that isn’t always the case. There are now at least 43 locations across Kansas, including two in Lawrence, that charge a special sales tax that is over and above the standard sales tax charged in their communities. Do you know where the 43 are?

Many people don’t. It is becoming increasingly common for a merchant on one side of the street to have one sales tax while a similar merchant on the other side of the street could have a sales tax up to 2 percent higher.

Lawrence took a positive step this week in addressing the issue locally. Commissioners directed staff members to create an ordinance that would require all special taxing districts in the city to post signs that alert shoppers to the higher tax.

That seems fair. Often, these special taxes help provide better parking or grander amenities than exist in typical commercial developments. Shoppers may well decide that the shopping experience is worth an extra sales tax.

But voters need to have the tax information presented to them, so they can “vote with their feet.”

Wichita also requires signs alerting shoppers that they are in a special taxing district. But many communities do not. Lawrence city commissioners said they likely will ask state legislators to consider a law that would require all special taxing districts in Kansas to post signs notifying shoppers of the sales tax differences. That would level the playing field, and perhaps would quiet some of the critics of these special taxing districts.

The districts have been particularly controversial in Lawrence. It is understandable that residents aren’t excited about any additional taxes, but Lawrence leaders need to be open to the special taxing districts now that a sign ordinance will be part of the equation. For good or bad, such incentives are becoming an important component in attracting national and regional retailers to a community. Lawrence can’t afford to watch its sales tax base erode while we make a stand based on principle.

With signs that alert shoppers to the special taxes, shoppers would be empowered to make their own informed decisions. It seems reasonable that shoppers across the state have such power as well. City commissioners should follow through on efforts to lobby state legislators to make special taxing districts more transparent.

And we urge legislators who cringe at the thought of raising taxes to consider this: If your constituents don’t want you to raise taxes, do you really believe they want you to hide existing ones?


Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

Hey folks we are being duped!

This opinion being offered is an effort to convince all smart taxpayers that we should give up our never ending demand for ethics in business and ethics from the county and city commissioners. To hell with discipline,fiscal responsibility and simple smart business.

Do we taxpayers owe the few real estate giants in Lawrence,Kansas or from anywhere anything? Hell no!

If developers would go to the bank instead of using taxpayers as their loan agency things would be swell.

If special tax stores don't place these signs throughout the store what does this say about the developers? No integrity and the truth is not important.

These sales taxes that never end are profit on top of profit no matter how they are disguised.

How in the world did taxpayers allow their elected officials to brain wash them into believing that without OUR tax dollars no one will come? This is absolute BS. I say.... stay away you selfish tax dollar moochers we don't need you and CANNOT afford you.

What we have is a few people who want to sell THEIR real estate. These few people believe it is the duty of the taxpayers to make their risky investments a success. What the hell are these people thinking? What the hell are taxpayers thinking if they believe this crap?

Look at this way:

  1. Taxpayers tell all tax dollar moochers Lawrence and Douglas county is closed to all tax dollar moochers = money ahead big time = more personal expendable cash

  2. When Lawrence actually becomes a hot market beyond belief the real estate buyers will be begging to come in meaning no tax dollar incentives necessary thank you.

  3. The land owners then can sell their investments for way more money without taxpayers draining their wallets and paying higher taxes to increase the wealth of a few investors.

Hey folks we are being duped!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

The reason sales taxes have been increasing dramatically over the last 20 or so years is to finance the reductions in income taxes for the wealthiest people in this state-- often the very same ones who want these hidden sales taxes that go directly into their pockets. And many of these same individuals have seen their federal taxes reduced, allowing them to buy government bonds to pay for the deficits their tax reductions have run up.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 10 months ago

Good point, bozo: A stable tax system should be about 1/3 property, income and sales taxes. The legislature has distorted the system giving breaks to their buddies. At this point, about 90% of the property and 75% of the sales are off the books, leaving the rest of us to pick up the slack or to watch government services fade away.......... More light reading: Here are the research studies commissioned by the legislature on erosion of the tax base: Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs Wichita State University



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