by Andrew Crisp
The Idaho State Tax Commission has become ineffective, claimed Democratic Representative Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum. A member of the powerful Joint-Finance Appropriations Committee, Jaquet called for comprehensive reform, citing a need to bring the commission “into the 21st century”.
“We now have a 1950’s model, with no accountability except to a politically elected Governor who won’t take action,” said Jaquet. “It is time to appoint a professional administrator who would not be tied to special interests.”
Last year, commission whistleblowers stepped forward to uncover cases of “sweetheart deals” or tax amnesty granted by the commission, Former commission employees came forward, highlighting cases such as a golf course that was given amnesty for $700,000 worth of taxes on high-priced membership fees, and the waiver of $400,000 worth of penalties on a taxpayer who wrongfully claimed over $5 million in Idaho tax credits.
During the 2010 session, lawmakers learned of the “tax gap”, a $225 million hole in collections that the commission claimed could be filled with better staffing. The issue became a hot potato between republican leadership and democratic critics.
Jaquet also questioned the relationship between the commission’s chairman, Royce Chigbrow, and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s re-election campaign, where he has previously served as treasurer.
”The governor appoints the chairman, but he appears unwilling or unable to get his long-time political associate to address the obvious mismanagement at the Commission. It is time for the legislature to act,” Jaquet said.
Jaquet’s bill would create an entirely new agency, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, to be headed by a Director of Revenue, administrator of the agency. Many of the commission’s duties would be turned over to the new agency, and it would move to fulfilling the constitutional requirement as board of equalization. The commission would become a part-time body, with the new Director of Revenue presiding as ex officio executive.