Tag Archives: taxpayers

Farewell ‘Junket’ Cost to Taxpayers: $13,388

As a parting gift before leaving the state Legislature, five outgoing lawmakers spent more than $13,000 of taxpayer money to go on a four-day junket to Chicago, according a TNReport review of state records.
Taxpayers are covering the costs for everything from airfare and mileage to staying in $227-a-night hotels and taking $40 taxi cab rides during the trip. The registration fees were as high as $615 per person for the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit in August. Some of the lawmakers, who had been defeated at the ballot box or announced their retirement, claimed five and six days’ per diem at $173 per day.
For lawmakers who knew at the time they would leave office after the November election, those bills amount to a taxpayer-funded “retirement party,” one critic said.
“People who serve in the Legislature for long periods of time tend to get a sense of entitlement about what the taxpayers owe them,” said Ben Cunningham, spokesman for Tennessee Tax Revolt, a taxpayer advocacy group.
What’s worse, he said, is that the speakers of both chambers signed off on the $13,388 worth of expense reports.
,,,The outgoing lawmakers are House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, who lost their primaries on Aug. 2, four days before the conference, and retiring lawmakers Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill; Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap; and Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.


Note: The article referenced above is, I think, the last story filed by Andrea Zelinski for TNReport. She’s moving to The City Paper, where she will continue to report on state government and political stuff, after a week or so vacation with her husband. The move has inspired some commentary — HERE, for Betsy Phillips, who is glad there’s a woman around among the dwindling Tennessee Capitol Hill Press Corps. I’m glad she’ll be around, too — not because she’s female, but because she’s a relatively fresh face compared to us old coots and is cool, competent and professional while actually paying a lot of attention to the ongoing process.

On Those ‘Byzantine and Often-Conflicting’ Tax Rulings Recently Released

Chas Sisk has done a revealing review of recently-released rulings by the state Department of Revenue, deemed to be “shedding new light on the byzantine and often-conflicting rules that taxpayers face.”
Sometimes bizarre, counterintuitive and seemingly arbitrary, the rulings illustrate just how critical tax questions can be to businesses.
In recent months, the Department of Revenue has told a country club that it has to tax lockers. But a fitness club does not, provided it offers services like racquetball.
Revenue lawyers have also told a company that makes an injection that eliminates smile lines that its product is tax-free because users can get it only by prescription. Sunscreen remains taxable, they add.
And revenue officials have told a firm that it must collect sales taxes on its shop drawings because it prints them out. The drawings do not have to be taxed if the firm leaves them on computers.
“You know, I’ve had members calling me up about that,” said Jim Brown, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “There’s no question there is some complexity” in the state’s sales tax laws.
The Department of Revenue has so far released 23 so-called “private rulings” this summer.
The rulings let taxpayers — usually businesses — get a decision from the Department of Revenue up front about complex or ambiguous aspects of the state’s tax laws. Each ruling is supposed to apply only to the taxpayer that asks for it, but lawyers and accountants scrutinize them for clues as to how the law would be applied.

Note: Previous post on the partial opening of revenue rulings to the public HERE.