Hearings Taking Place on Legislation to Simplify Ohio’s Municipal Income Tax System

Municipal Tax ReformProponents Emphasize the Goal Is to Reduce the Cost Burden on Small Businesses

Proponents and opponents of legislation seeking to establish a uniform, cost-effective set of rules and regulations governing the municipal income tax system are expressing their views before Ways and Means Committee members of the Ohio House. Hearings are continuing during the week of May 6.

House Bill 5, the latest legislative effort to simplify the state municipal income tax system, was introduced in January. It has support from business groups, including the Ohio Society of CPAs, a coalition of organizations and individual taxpayers. They contend that the administrative burden and costs for many Ohio businesses impedes them from creating more jobs across Ohio.

Ohio is just one of a few states in which municipalities impose an income tax on individuals and businesses. Those businesses must track and comply with as many as 600 different sets of tax ordinances, depending on where they conduct business.

The proposed legislation would establish a more uniform municipal tax code that all municipalities assessing a tax on businesses or individuals would follow, including a uniform definition of income, withholding, penalties and interest, and all related rules and regulations other than tax rate and reciprocity rate.

The bill creates the Municipal Tax Policy Board charged with creating a uniform form. It may also recommend rules. The board will be comprised solely of seven city representatives with no business or taxpayer representatives.

Five of the seven members are required to be local tax administrators. Of the two remaining members, one must be an employee of the Regional Income Tax Authority (RITA) and one must be an employee of the Central Collection Agency (CCA).  Both RITA and CCA are agencies that currently collect municipal taxes for a number of cities and villages throughout Ohio.

In addition to unifying some of the definitions for income and deductions, the bill also requires not counting anything less than a half-day as a workday for income tax purposes. It also would expand the number of days that someone must work in a community before he or she is liable for any income tax there. Currently, the threshold is 12 days per year. The proposal would expand that to 20 days.

Opponents, largely from cities, insist that the cost of compliance with the current municipal tax laws is overstated. Proponents contend that Ohio’s current municipal tax system presents compliance problems for individual and business taxpayers, costs existing employers resources that could be redirected to growing their businesses and creating more jobs, and puts Ohio at an economic disadvantage for attracting new employers.

The proposed legislation does not call for a centralized collection system, nor is it looking to reduce the amount of tax that individuals and businesses must pay.