Local real estate agents gear up, promote Amendment 4
See taxation of services as threat to public, providers
With the General Election on the horizon, Missouri realtors have stepped up their promotion of Amendment 4 to the Missouri Constitution.
Miles Noennig, president of the Missouri Realtors Association, spoke on what proponents are calling the "Taxpayer Protection Amendment" to realtors at the Monett Chamber of Commerce community room recently. For the past seven sessions, the Missouri General Assembly has entertained the idea of taxing a wide variety of services. These potentially range from the delivery room doctor to the pizza delivery man and the gravedigger. Legal services and real estate services stand at risk. The Missouri Department of Revenue has determined taxes on the delivery of propane, construction equipment, even shipments through FedEx could be subject to taxation.
Noennig said Missourians for Fair Taxation, supported by the National Association of Realtors, gathered 300,000 signatures, almost double the required number, to place an amendment to the Missouri Constitution on the ballot to stop plans to tax services, especially by any taxing authority not currently in place.
"The threat is real," Noennig said. "Other states are talking about doing it."
Allies in the effort also include the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Broadcasters Association, organizations that historically have not endorsed such initiatives.
Realtors are using their familiar yard sign strategy to promote their message. Noennig said a vote in favor of the amendment would add constitutional security to voters against a proliferation of taxes and send a message to lawmakers to not waste tax dollars, to follow existing laws faithfully an stay away from placing sales taxes on services, which can have the hardest impact on those the least able to pay.
"I'm 100 percent behind it," said State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville. I've seen the Department of Revenue look into gray areas of rules and regulations, trying to tax some entities that have never been taxed before."
Sater recalled about seven years ago, the Department of Revenue began pursuing pharmacies for sales tax on certain prescriptions, then went back two years to collect.
"Pharmacies have not collected sales tax in forever," Sater said. "I fashioned legislation to stop them from doing that. I think they're still going in that direction. That's why I'd be 100 percent for it."
According to State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, the real impetus behind adding new sources of revenue comes in the wake of proponents seeking to abolish the state income tax.
"Most states that have done that have moved towards sales tax on services, in addition to products," Fitzpatrick said. "My real concern is getting wrapped into that either by initiative petition or legislation. To my recollection, in four years, we have not made another area subject to sales tax that wasn't taxable before. It's not like we have a problem."
Fitzpatrick admitted he has been neutral on the amendment, but he does not want to see a sales tax on real estate transactions or on his plumbing bill.
"I get where they're coming from," Fitzpatrick said. "I don't know if we should tie the hands of the legislature going forward. I'm going to have to think more about this before the election."