AZ firms try anew for tax break on equipment House seeks tax break for businesses

2013-02-22T00:00:00Z AZ firms try anew for tax break on equipment House seeks tax break for businessesHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
February 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - State lawmakers are moving to give businesses another chance to ask voters to lower their taxes.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously late Thursday to put a question on the 2014 ballot to expand a partial exemption that businesses now have. The measure now goes to the full House.

Businesses pay property taxes annually not only on the value of their land and buildings but, unlike homeowners, also on the worth of every piece of equipment they own and use.

Voters have previously allowed businesses to exempt the first $50,000 in equipment. With inflation, that has now risen to more than $68,000.

The new proposal, HCR 2011, would boost that exemption sharply using a formula tied to median earnings in the state. Farrell Quinlan, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, figures the formula would let companies have up to $2.4 million of their equipment untaxed.

But even if it eventually gets legislative approval, one key hurdle would remain: voter ratification. And an identical measure on last year's ballot was rejected by a 12-point margin.

Quinlan blamed the failure in 2012 on lack of campaign money.

Final campaign finance reports showed just $56,903 spent statewide to support that measure, on the ballot as Proposition 116, with most of that coming from the National Federation of Independent Business. Supporters did not spend more, as there was no organized opposition and the concept, both then and now, had bipartisan legislative support.

"We need to raise some money before we put this back on the ballot," Quinlan conceded to lawmakers.

He said that for many businesses, the issue is not just about money. Businesses whose property is worth less than the exemption do not have to bother computing what their equipment is worth, factoring in depreciation and all that, much less write out a check every year, he said. Quinlan figures that would remove the burden from about 93 percent of all companies in the state.

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