Mo. Lawmaker Wants More Tax Transparency

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COLUMBIA - A Columbia House Republican wants to make it easier for Missourians to figure out which taxes they are paying at any business in the Show-Me-State.

Many Missouri cities have special taxing districts like Community Improvement Districts (CID) and Transportation Development Districts (TDD), districts which levy additional sales taxes to pay for improvement projects in retail areas.

Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, is sponsoring a bill to require each tax jurisdiction in the state to report its tax rate and its revenue collections to the Department of Revenue. The department would then be required to display the information on its website and would be required to develop a database of the information. 

The database would eventually allow Missourians to type in any address in the state and be able to figure out which state and local taxes apply at that address. 

The District CID in Columbia levies an additional half-percent sales tax on downtown shoppers to pay for projects like the Downtown Columbia Gateway Project and other projects aimed at making downtown a more attractive place to do business. 

The District displays its revenue information and its annual budget online. District Executive Director Carrie Gartner told KOMU 8 News the District tries to be transparent with local taxpayers, especially because taxpayers voted to give downtown Columbia the CID label. 

"I think it's important that the taxpayer know what resources are out there right now to figure out what's going on, how much money is being collected and what that money is used for," Gartner said.

Not all special tax jurisdictions display information on the Web or display how the additional tax revenue is being used.

State Auditor Tom Schweich found problems with transparency in TDD areas in an August 2013 report. Schweich found 49 of the more than 150 TDD's in the state were not reporting their finances correctly. 

Rowden said his bill could help make tax districts more accountable to taxpayers. The bill would allow the revenue department to use the information collected for oversight purposes. 

A Missouri House committee heard testimony on the bill Monday afternoon. Last year, Rowden sponsored similar legislation that made it out of the House but never received a vote in the Senate.