More detailed tax incentive reporting proposed

The Revenue Committee heard testimony Feb. 26 on a bill intended to increase transparency in Nebraska’s tax incentive programs.

Sen. Tom Brandt
Sen. Tom Brandt

LB134, introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth, would require the state Department of Revenue to compile detailed information on tax refunds, credits and exemptions received by taxpayers under the state’s current tax incentive programs and any similar program created by the Legislature in the future.

The information, which would be posted on a website maintained by the state treasurer, would include a list of individual tax incentives received by each taxpayer, the aggregate amount of tax credits and sales tax refunds received by each taxpayer and the aggregate amount of wage credits a taxpayer used against employee withholding.

Brandt said current reporting is not detailed enough to allow the public and lawmakers to determine whether the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives granted each year are serving their intended purpose.

“Until we become more transparent regarding corporate tax credits,” he said, “it will remain difficult for us as lawmakers to determine if these programs deliver sufficient value to the state at large and not just the rewarded companies.”

LB134 also would require the department to include the information in an annual report and present it at a joint hearing of the Appropriations and Revenue committees.

Craig Beck, fiscal analyst at OpenSky Policy Institute, testified in support of the bill. Under the ImagiNE Nebraska Act, he said, only basic information such as a taxpayer’s name and location and a two-year sum of their tax credits and sales tax refunds is made public.

LB134 would give the Legislature more detailed, company-specific data on a yearly basis, Beck said, helping policymakers determine whether that program and others are meeting their goals.

Chad Denton testified in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Lincoln and Omaha chambers. He said LB134 causes businesses “tremendous” concern because the detailed reporting it would require indirectly could reveal sensitive information to competitors.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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