Missouri’s Department of Revenue director wants a positive tax environment that’s fair for citizens and attractive to business.
Joel Walters spoke to a couple dozen citizens Wednesday at the Frisco Building in Springfield. He was talking about the findings from a series of town hall meetings conducted by the Governor's Committee on Simple, Fair and Low Taxes, which he chairs.
Walters said the committee decided to stay out of larger cities, and head “into the state.” They took place earlier this year in Maryville, Cape Girardeau, Hannibal and Springfield, where taxpayers shared their concerns on the state’s current system and how it impacts them. During those meetings, the committee says more than 150 local residents and businesses weighed in, and it received more than 150 written comments.
“I just think that our current system is complex,” Walters said. “I think it’s difficult to understand. I think it’s unfair in the sense that there are many exemptions, credits and uncertainty depending on individual taxpayer circumstances. And there is an opportunity to even that out for all citizens and business in the state of Missouri.”
A positive tax environment for businesses and individuals is also a point Walters stood by. He lined out four ways the committee and Department of Revenue are currently working to provide a simpler and fairer tax system for Missourians.
The first step is hiring a “taxpayer advocate,” a position held years ago but that is currently empty. Walters also wants to see tax assistance offices reopen in counties across Missouri. The Missouri Tax Payer Bill of Rights will be rewritten, Walters said. And finally, Gov. Greitens “No Mo’ Red Tape” program is being used to gain feedback from citizens to rescind strangling regulations.
According to Walters, a “business friendly” administration and revenue department would “position the state better for the future and will also lead to economic growth and job creation.”
Former Springfield Mayor Thomas Carlson attended Wednesday’s event. He said that while he does agree the state would be better off with fewer taxes, he feels more focus needs placed on bigger issues facing businesses, such as educating the workforce.
“Well, all things being equal, lower taxes are going to attract more business,” Carlson said. “But in my experience, when companies were deciding whether to locate to Missouri, the bigger issues were the quality of the workforce, and whether the workforce was well-educated. And those, unfortunately, are issues where you have to spend money.”
Walter’s presentation Wednesday came a week after President Donald Trump visited Springfield to launch his tax reform overhaul plan. He said he agreed with how the President explained the economic issues facing Americans, but that the details of his plan need to be “flushed out” a bit more.
“I will certainly be very supportive of federal tax reform. I think it’s something that we desperately need to be competitive in a global environment,” Walters said.
The Governor's Committee on Simple, Fair and Low Taxes submitted its report to Gov. Eric Greitens in June. Most of its immediate recommendations call for reducing excessive spending on tax credit programs, as well as adding transparency and efficiency to existing programs.