As your taxpayer advocate and elected member of the California State Board of Equalization, I'm fighting to protect your rights and bring about fair tax policies that help grow our economy and jobs. As always, I welcome your ideas about how we can work together to solve the problems facing our state.
- GEORGE RUNNER
Fire Fee Bills Delayed and HJTA Lawsuit Received by State
There have been two major developments with the Fire Fee in the last month: the state officially received the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association lawsuit challenging the fire fee and Cal Fire requested that the Board of Equalization delay the billing of this year's bills.
On March 12th, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association formally served the State Board of Equalization, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Department of Justice with their class action lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed late last year, challenges the constitutionality of the fire fee.
Days later, the Mountain Democrat reported that a recent Cal Fire investigation found “errors and inconsistencies” in State Responsibility Area (SRA) boundaries. Among its findings, the review identified more than 1,300 parcels in El Dorado Hills that don’t belong in the SRA.
Because the state shouldn’t be knowingly sending tax bills to anyone who doesn’t actually owe the money, I wrote a letter to Cal Fire requesting a delay in the 2012-13 billing until it could be determined who actually lived within the SRA boundaries.
I noted in my letter that “As a matter of fairness, it is important that the billing of these accounts be delayed until these ‘errors and inconsistencies’ are resolved by the Board of Forestry."
The next day, the Board of Equalization received a request from Cal Fire to delay the billing of the 2012-13 fire fee bills, which were scheduled to begin mailing April 2nd.
The fire fee is tax policy at its worst. Ever since the Legislature enacted this illegal tax, it’s created one problem after another. If the Legislature doesn’t act quickly to repeal this fiasco, the courts need to strike it down.
Keep up with all the latest fire fee news by following Calfirefee.com on Facebook or Twitter.
Proposed Legislation Would Make Pet Meds Tax Free
California pet and animal owners would pay less for medicines purchased from a local veterinarian if a new legislative measure sponsored by the State Board of Equalization becomes law. Making pet medicine tax-free will benefit California pet owners and veterinarians. It also benefits Californians by keeping more dollars in our state and promoting animal health, which is why I supported this proposal at the March meeting of the Board of Equalization.
According to the Californian Veterinary Medical Association, there are 19 million companion animal pets in California. Approximately 33% of households own at least one dog and approximately 28% own at least one cat.
Many Californians currently buy medicine for their pets online under the assumption that such purchases are tax free—not knowing they owe “use tax,” the equivalent of sales tax. The proposed legislation would eliminate sales tax on drugs and medicines sold or used for the treatment of animals by veterinarians, animal shelters and certain nonprofits.
Licensed veterinarians are currently considered consumers and must pay tax on any drugs or medicines they purchase for use or resale.
The Board’s unanimous vote to sponsor this bill shows it is a good idea with broad bipartisan support and I look forward to seeing this effort gain momentum in the Legislature.
Free Income Tax Assistance
A reminder of a program that I mentioned in last month's newsletter: individuals and families who need help with income tax return preparation can now visit Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites throughout California. These locations provide free tax preparation services to individuals and families who may not be able to afford a tax preparer.
You can schedule your free appointment with a certified preparer at a local VITA site.
Q. When do local sales tax increases go into effect?
A. Increases in county and city sales tax rates take effect on April 1st. This year, California taxpayers will see sales tax increases in three counties (Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Clara) as well as in 19 cities.