A legislator fighting the past several years to unseal the secrecy of tax credits succeeded Tuesday in getting an amendment passed that would make it easier to track how tax credits are used in Oklahoma.
Under the amendment filed by Rep. Mike Reynolds, the Oklahoma Tax Commission would be required to maintain “a list of all taxpayers who have claimed any tax credit authorized by any provisions of state law and related to a tax administered by the Tax Commission.”
Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said e-mails he obtained from the Tax Commission show the state has nearly $418 million in tax credits that businesses or individuals are eligible to claim in 2008.
“Some of them can’t use that much,” Reynolds said. “If you get a $10 million tax credit and you only owe $3 million in taxes this year, you can take $3 million the next year and $3 million the next year. There’s so much hidden out there that hasn’t been taken yet.”
Reynolds said Oklahomans have the right to see how hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits are being used.
“The Tax Commission has refused to give me information for years because they say it’s confidential information,” he said. “This (amendment) will remove the veil of confidentiality.
Reynolds showed House members a 3-inch stack of tax credit requests for 2009.
“Supporters always claim these credits contribute to economic development. Now they can prove it,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds attached his amendment to House Bill 3422, which would make state expenditures more transparent and available online. Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, the author of the measure, said the bill would allow the public to see where tax dollars are being spent.
Among other things, HB 3422 would require all purchases made with state funds to be disclosed on the online database, Open Books, and that each individual expenditure be listed separately instead of being lumped together as one purchase.
The amended bill passed 94-0. It now goes to the Senate.
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau