As many of you know, the Utah Legislature highlighted sales tax reform as an agenda priority in the 2019 session. The proposed verbiage was publicly shared two weeks prior to the end of the session and many citizens and private interest groups overflowed the Legislature with opinions for and against the changes. One of the largest concerns was taxing service providers such as plumbers, electricians, realtors, accountants, and yes, lawyers.
I am one of many people with strong opinions about many things, but it’s important for all of us, regardless of our opinions, to understand facts to base our opinions upon so we can create resolutions to meet the concerns of others, both actual and perceived. So, let’s learn about sales tax so we can be informed when we express our opinions.
What is sales tax? Currently, sales tax is a compounded (added-on) tax where the state has a base rate which the county and city can add additional rates. For instance, to sell a cup of coffee in Torrey requires a 7.01% sales tax cost but to sell a cup in Joseph is around 6.65%. However, selling grocery items is a state-wide 3% sales tax.
Sales taxes fund the State of Utah’s general fund which pays for state government services such as public safety, courts, social services, elections, air quality, and transportation. Sales tax does not fund education. Sales taxes also fund municipalities and with the transient room tax, provide budgets to county tourism offices.
Why does the state want to change sales tax? There are many reasons. Some include businesses who want “fair” taxing for services and products. Others have valid economic reasons such as the sales tax base has decreased nearly 57% since the 1980s while income and property tax grows. Many theories persist about the decreased sales tax revenue: online sales where tax is not collected, buying more services than goods, and increased exemptions. The other issue is how higher education is funded. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget published an informative position statement about why sales tax should be reformed, check it out.
Should legal services be taxed? You can probably guess my opinion is “no” for many personal and professional reasons. But regardless of my opinion, I hope you now understand some of the issues faced by the state regarding its tax structure. I also hope you use this information to create your own informed opinion.
What’s your opinion? If you have opinions about changing the tax structure in Utah, the closest townhall to Garfield, Wayne, Piute and Sevier, County will be in Richfield on June 28th with a tentative start time of 6 pm. The location has not yet been published. Participate in your government. If you are unable to attend the townhall, contact your elected officials to express your opinions and how changes to the tax structure would affect your communities and businesses.
Disclaimer. As always, my column is not legal advice, instead merely insight into the law and legal profession. If you have a general question about the law or legal profession, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 435.610.1431.
If you ever have an idea for how to “make things better” or feel, “if only” or “ah-ha” as you invent the next idea or product or some other aspirational desire to create, you are like many people. You differentiate yourself by taking your idea/thought/aspiration from the abstract to realistic through proper notetaking. And organization of your documents.
Creating a Business. Businesses require three things: passion, finances, and proper registration. If you want to start a business, thoroughly review your idea and research its viability. Is there already someone producing your product or providing your services? What makes you stand out? What is your competitive edge? Listen to others and do your own research. Write your business plan and prepare to pitch it to a potential financer such as a bank, friend, or family member.
You may see a need that others cannot imagine or perceive as possible. And that’s okay. Just do it (with a realistic vision and some kind of market research). Throughout your business creation process, make sure to register your business with the State of Utah and your municipality or county. Have an operating agreement and start drafting a policy handbook. Decide if you want to create a partnership and consider the investments of each leader in your business.
Creating a non-profit or grassroots organization. Is there a social need in your community? A cultural need? Many people have a pivoting moment in their life then decide they would like to participate or create a group, nonprofit, or start a branch of an already existing, established organization to help with social or cultural issues in their community.
If you decide to create a chapter of branch of an existing organization, take a moment to review their constitution and bylaws. These documents control everything from the purpose of the group to how meetings are managed and people are chosen for leadership positions.
If you choose to create your own organization, decide if you should establish it as an organized non-profit organization with board members and filing requirements with the state and federal government. Information about starting a non-profit organization can be found by googling the Utah Nonprofit Association.
Like starting a business, consider what other organizations are doing similar actions compared to your organization or how your organization or chapter can add value to your community. If you choose to create a nonprofit organization, make sure to have your bookkeeping and documents kept in compliance with Utah and federal laws.
Patenting an invention. Did you create a new tool or item that would be useful to someone else? If so, keep careful record of your invention. Record every step of your invention process and describe and diagram every modification of your invention and how you came up with it. If you create a prototype, record that information in your notebook. The key to defending your patent is in your record keeping and note organization.
Next, you want to file for a patent, make sure no one else has patented your idea. You can do this through the United States Patenting Trademark Office (google it). There, you can also file for a patent application. There are many resources online for learning how to patent an invention yourself. However, if it is too complicated, you may want to hire an attorney.
If you stay organized and read the small print, your organization skills will be thanked later when there are questions about the formation, policies, or decisions you made. Not all ideas for businesses, organizations, or inventions will come to fruition. And not all ideas are good or realistic ideas. Just remember, not everything will flower, but nothing flowers without roots. Your current idea could be the basis the next great business, organization, or patent.
Disclaimer. As always, my column is not legal advice, instead merely insight into the law and legal profession. If you have a general question about the law or legal profession, please email me at email@example.com or call my office at 435.610.1431
Published in the 6/13 Wayne & Garfield County Insider.