Rank and filing taxes

Taxes will get cussed and discussed in Nevada’s 2011 Legislature, along with spending cuts, no matter which anti-tax candidate becomes governor or whatever partisan mix winds up in the legislative chambers.

Recent findings of two national researchers provide fodder for the state debate regarding which road to take if tax changes accompany spending cuts to handle Nevada’s budget shortfall, which is in the neighborhood of $3 billion.

Taxing talk already is in full swing. Much of it deals with the mix of taxes on business or just us folks. At first blush, many would opt for business. But let’s look at those studies before we leap.

The Tax Foundation attacks corporate income taxes, particularly gross receipts tax proposals, saying they would jeopardize Nevada’s ability to attract investment. It labeled gross receipts taxation a distortion interfering with business decisions.

Foundation findings by Joseph Henchman make the author a henchman of the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), which opposes more business taxation and prefers a broadened yet lowered state sales tax.

Your columnist cops a plea to being another henchman. You may recall that I praised the NPRI stance previously. I contend neither individual nor corporate income taxation is right for Nevada, and broadening sales taxes while lowering the rate is better than spoiling the business tax climate.

Henchman and the foundation sounded similar themes: done right, broadening the sales tax (presumably to include services) could “improve the stability of the sales tax while generating new revenue or paying for tax reductions elsewhere.”

Now let’s look at the CNBC TV network’s 2010 ranking of top states in which to do business, which puts Nevada 47th. Ludicrous, I say; it ranks Nebraska 13th and California tied with Arkansas at 32nd.

I was a newspaper business editor in Nebraska. No way it beats Nevada for business. And many Nevadans know it’s silly to rank California better than the Silver State.

CNBC’s rank rankings include cost of doing business, workforce, quality of life, economy, transport and infrastructure, technology and innovation, education, business friendliness, access to capital, and cost of living.

The business channel ranked Nevada 37th in cost of business and 50th in education. Maybe, but it also ranked Nevada 37th in quality of life, California 15th and Nebraska 21st. C’mon, gimme a break.

CNBC claims Nevada did beat Arkansas’ dismal 43rd. Hell, I say Arkansas beats Nebraska for quality of life unless you’re a Big Red football fan.

Even if you buy into this loony CNBC analysis, though, it still supports keeping a solid Nevada business tax climate.

Would raising education from 50th to 46th in CNBC’s eyes be worth it if Nevada dropped from 47th to 50th overall of the best (worst, at this end) states for business?

Go ahead. Befoul the business tax climate, dropping Nevada business friendliness from 15th into the 20s and cost of business from 37th into the 40s. Then check the overall ranking. No, thanks. There’s a better way.

“With Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona recently raising taxes,” wrote the foundation’s Henchman, “Nevada’s already enviable tax climate looks better and better. As the economy improves, the state is well-positioned for capital investment and job creation.”

Cuss away, but if Nevada’s business tax climate worsens, watch out. New business won’t appear, while existing firms either pass new taxes on to us as an operating cost or decrease consumer choice and service. It’s even possible some of them will disappear.