Montana Chamber updates tax study progress

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BUTTE — The Montana Chamber of Commerce released initial findings from its study of Montana’s business taxes at the organization’s Annual Meeting Oct. 26. The State Tax Research Institute gave members a first look at its analysis on Montana’s tax structure and some possible reform options in future legislative sessions.

The analysis is complete and the results are currently being processed. Released during the annual meeting were the high level findings of the Phase II incremental and broad based reform options.

“Montana’s lack of a broad based consumption tax requires greater reliance on property and income taxes, which result in a less favorable business tax competitiveness environment for many Montana industries compared to neighboring states,” said Tom Neubig, one of the economists working on the Montana Chamber’s tax study. “Total business taxes in Montana as a share of the state economy is the 12th highest among all states. We analyzed some potential tax restructuring options including business equipment tax relief, equalizing property tax rates, a sales tax and a business entity level tax on consumption.”

This report compared Montana’s tax climate to six neighboring states and a cross-section of business types. It highlighted “sore thumbs” in Montana’s business tax climate and gives consideration to maintaining stable revenues while offering recommendations to make Montana a more tax friendly state.

“This study is one of the fruits of our research initiative through Envision 2026, our 10-year strategic plan,”said Webb Scott Brown, Montana Chamber of Commerce president/CEO. “This report gives us some hard data to point to when we talk about the tax climate in Montana, and it shows how we compare to our neighbors. In order to achieve the goals of our 10-year strategic plan such as job growth in Montana, we need to have a tax friendly climate that will attract companies to make Montana home.”

The annual meeting also included the release of the annual report on Envision 2026, the 10-year strategic plan of the Montana Chamber of Commerce. The goals of Envision 2026 include being in the top 10 of all states in Gross State Product growth, the top half of per capita personal income, the top 10 in of all U.S. states in job growth and the top 10 of all U.S. states in per capita personal income growth. These goals will be achieved by continuing to improve workforce development, entrepreneurship, infrastructure and business basics.

During the meeting, there were three presentations on infrastructure, apprenticeships and the tax study. U.S. congressional candidate Greg Gianforte opened the meeting talking about entrepreneurship in Montana. The keynote luncheon speaker was Bob Rowe, the president/CEO of NorthWestern Energy.

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