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February 23, 2015 - Presented to: Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee
February 10, 2015 - California law has long required banks, insurance companies, and many other types of entities to transfer to the State Controller’s Office (SCO) personal property considered abandoned by owners. The SCO has made important strides in reuniting this "unclaimed property" with owners recently, but faces budgetary and statutory constraints in reuniting even more such property. Since the 1950s, the state has accumulated over $7 billion in unclaimed property belonging to individuals, businesses, and local governments. Because property not reunited with owners becomes state General Fund revenue, the unclaimed property law creates an incentive for the state to reunite less property with owners. We recommend performance measures, or targets, for the unclaimed property program that place a greater emphasis on reuniting more property with owners and offer 19 options for meeting that goal.
December 18, 2014 - In June 2014, the Legislature directed the LAO to prepare a report analyzing the costs, benefits, and trade-offs of various options for a state earned income tax credit (EITC) that would supplement the federal credit. This report discusses considerations for adopting a state EITC and provides three options for the Legislature's consideration.
April 30, 2014 - This report provides background information on the motion picture industry and offers preliminary observations regarding the California film and television production tax credit. This report does not make recommendations regarding the tax credit or any proposed legislation. We highlight several factors for the Legislature to consider when reviewing the tax credit in our report.
March 20, 2014 - For about 100 years, California’s local governments generally could raise taxes without directly securing their residents’ consent. Beginning in 1978, the state’s voters amended the California Constitution several times to require that local government tax increases be approved by local voters. Recently, the Legislature has shown interest in exploring changes to voter-approval requirements for local taxes. Several proposals to place changes before the voters have been introduced during the current legislative session. This report was developed to provide context for discussions about changing these requirements. After a brief introduction to local governments in California, the report (1) summarizes the state's existing system of voter-approval requirements for local taxes, (2) explains how the state's complex voter-approval system evolved, and (3) reviews outcomes of local tax elections over the past 15 years.
March 13, 2014 - In this report, we provide an overview of local property tax administration and review the administration's proposed three-year pilot program to improve tax administration and generate state General Fund savings. In particular, we (1) describe how the current property tax system weakens the incentive counties have to fund property tax administration, (2) review and evaluate the administration's three-year pilot program to improve county incentives, and (3) provide recommendations regarding the pilot's design. In our view, the administration's pilot program merits the Legislature's serious consideration but could be improved by incorporating several modifications. These include: ensuring each county has the same fiscal incentive to participate, providing participating counties greater funding certainty, promoting representative and consistently measured results, and potentially increasing near-term state savings on school spending.
March 13, 2014 - This letter responds to a request concerning California corporate tax trends, as discussed in the January 23, 2014 meeting of the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review. In nominal terms, the state's corporation tax has tended to grow over time, but it is a volatile tax. Moreover, since the mid-1980s, various legislative actions have reduced revenues this tax produces for the state General Fund.
August 5, 2013 - The sales and use tax is the state’s second largest revenue source as well as a major funding source for cities, counties, and some special districts. Historically, consumers have spent about the same share of their income each year on taxable items, meaning that sales taxes generally kept pace with growth in the state's economy. Starting in 1980, however, California consumers began to spend a growing share of their income each year on nontaxable items, especially services, and a declining share of their income on taxable goods. Although total consumer spending kept pace with the state’s economy, this shift in spending caused growth in taxable sales to lag behind growth in the state’s economy. Correspondingly, total sales tax revenues for the state and local governments have grown somewhat slower than the state's economy since 1980, despite periodic increases in the tax rate.
June 4, 2013 - Presented to Budget Conference Committee
May 9, 2013 - Presented to Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration and General Government
April 5, 2013 - Presented to Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee
March 18, 2013 - Presented to Assembly Revenue and Taxation, and Housing and Community Development Committees
February 5, 2013 - Presented to: Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy February 5, 2013.
January 28, 2013 - Presented to the California Senate
November 29, 2012 - Property taxes and charges are a major source of revenue for thousands of local governments in California, generating more than $55 billion in revenue in 2010-11. At the same time, many elements of California's property tax system are complex and not well understood. The purpose of this report is to serve as an introductory reference to this key funding source. In the report, we answer some common questions about the state's property taxes, such as: what taxes and charges are on the property tax bill, what properties make up California's tax base, which local local governments receive property tax revenue, and how does the property tax affect the state budget. We also identify some policy concerns related to how property tax revenue is distributed among local governments and evaluate the property tax system relative to common tax policy criteria.