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Opinion

Opinion: Other states tax services; why doesn’t California?

California taxes
Large boxes full of already opened and emptied envelopes sit at the Franchise Tax Board before being recycled in Sacramento.
(Laura Morton / For The Times )

To the editor: After working for almost 30 years in Tennessee — which had no income tax but collected a sales tax on almost everything, groceries included — I was surprised to find not only an absence of any tax on non-vital services in California, but a fierce resistance to the idea of imposing one. (“It’s time for California to stop leaning on the rich and take up state tax reform,” April 24)

As a freelance graphic designer in Nashville, I did not enjoy collecting and paying the 10% sales tax on my work every month, but I don’t recall feeling unduly burdened by it. The only hard part was finding out a year or so into my activities that I had to do this.

George Skelton periodically brings up the idea to tax services as a way to end California’s reliance on the volatile revenue generated by its top-heavy income tax. I cannot for the life of me imagine feeling somehow taken advantage of if I have to pay the plumber, the barber or the mechanic an extra few dollars.

I know from experience that adding tax collection to one’s working duties takes a little getting used to, but a whole lot of folks do it every day without undue pain — and we need the money.

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Will Owen, Pasadena

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To the editor: Once again, Skelton decries the “soak the rich” tax policies in California.

While reading a biography of Carole Lombard (“Fireball” by Robert Matzen), I came across an interesting tidbit about her taxes. She happened to mention during production of “Nothing Sacred” that she had filed her tax return for 1936, earning nearly half a million dollars and paying all but $20,000 in taxes.

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“We still don’t starve in the picture business after we’ve divided with the government,” she was quoted as saying at the time. “Taxes go to build schools, to maintain public utilities we all use, so why not?”

Apparently, some of the rich don’t mind being soaked.

John L. Uelmen, Newbury Park

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To the editor: Instead of dramatically cutting income taxes on the top 1% to reduce volatility, require the 1% to pay tax on their average profits over perhaps the last three years, thereby smoothing the annual fluctuations. Also, increase the property tax on the top 1% of real properties, whose value fluctuates less than profits do.

While we’re reforming taxes, stop taxing the middle class on the total value of their homes. Tax them on their equity, the portion they really own. Tax the bank on the rest, because it really owns the rest. During a slump in real estate values, a homeowner’s equity shrinks substantially, so their tax should drop or disappear.

If we need more revenue to fund public services, tax other forms of wealth such as securities held by the 1%.

Bob Gerecke, Claremont

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