Sunday, January 06, 2013

Tax transparency and assault weapons ban appear stalled

By Jamey Dunn 

A proposal that would require publicly traded corporations to share some tax information with lawmakers was shot down by a House committee today, and the chamber is also unlikely to take up an assault weapons ban before the new General Assembly is sworn in on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 282 would require publicly traded corporations that do business in Illinois to share tax information, such as their incomes, tax liability and tax credits. The information would not be made available to the public until two years after it was filed with secretary of state. At that time, it would be available to the public through a searchable online database. Proponents said lawmakers need the information to make educated decisions about tax policy. “This is about providing us with good information, so as we are making policy tax policy, we have a pretty good idea of what we’re doing,” said Chicago Democratic Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie. The measure passed in the Senate during the fall veto session.

 But those opposed say the measure is a violation of privacy. They say that competitors could use such information to get an edge. “The linchpin, one of the pillars of a volunteer tax system, is confidentiality,” said Tom Johnson, president emeritus of the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois.

One lawmaker who voted for the bill described it as an “overstep” but said he thinks legislators need more information when making decisions about tax laws. “From my own personal experience, one of the big frustrations that we’ve had in this committee is that we can’t get the information we need in order to make tax policy,” said Rep. John Bradley, the chair of the House Revenue and Finance Committee. He said he voted in favor of the bill to send a message that lawmakers need to know more about what businesses pay in taxes,“so that we can do a better job figuring out what we are up to when it comes to creating tax policy in this state.”

Illinois legislators probably will not consider a ban on assault weapons before the current legislative session ends on Wednesday. “We are not going to be proceeding on the legislation regarding the assault weapons ban, and I think that will be the case for balance of the 87th General Assembly,” said Northbrook Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekrtiz, chair of the House committee that was scheduled to take up the weapons ban today.

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