County officials and the cities in Jasper County are offering voters a chance to ask questions about the use tax measures that they will see on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Jasper County Western District Commissioner Darieus Adams said he and Joplin Finance Director Leslie Haase will be in the Commissioners' Office in the east lobby of the Jasper County Courthouse starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to answer questions from the public about the measure.
A Carthage citizens committee pushing for passage of the use tax here has scheduled a similar question-and-answer session with Carthage Chamber of Commerce and Carthage city officials for 7 p.m. next Monday, Oct. 28 at the Carthage Middle School located at Centennial Avenue and River Street.
While the measures are the same, voters in Carthage and the other cities will see them twice on the same ballot, once to approve a use tax for each city and a second time to approve a county-wide use tax.
Voters who live in rural areas will have to vote on only one ballot question.
“If approved by voters, the tax would re-establish a funding source to the City that was taken away in 2012 by a Missouri Supreme Court reinterpretation of a state law,” said Carthage Chamber of Commerce President Mark Elliff in a written release. “Under that new interpretation, the Court said a citizen no longer pays city sales tax on vehicles and boats purchased out of state or from an individual unless that city had a “Use Tax” in effect.”
Elliff explained that the tax affected only those people who purchased cars, trucks, trailers and other large-ticket items in other states, then brought them back and licensed them for use in Missouri.
“Prior to 2012, a citizen of Carthage paid city sales tax on vehicles bought in another state when they licensed the vehicle,” Elliff said. “Those tax revenues went to the City which used them to pay for services such as police and fire protection, emergency management, street repairs, park improvements, and taxi services. The loss of revenues to the City in fiscal year 2013 as a result of that decision was $64,455.84, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue.”
That same decision cost Jasper County in the neighborhood of $600,000 in revenue in that year.
Lawmakers in the Missouri General Assembly passed and Gov. Jay Nixon signed a temporary fix to the court's decision putting the tax back in place for cities and counties that do not already have use taxes for two years, but requiring them to put the issue before the voters within those two years or lose that revenue once again.
Elliff said that the loss of the use tax not only meant less revenues for the cities and counties, it put local businesses at a disadvantage when competing with similar businesses across the state lines.
Page 2 of 2 - This is because the out-of-state business does not have to charge a city sales tax on vehicle purchases when a local business does, so the total out of pocket costs for a new vehicle could be less,” Elliff said. “Keeping those sales local would not only generate tax dollars for the City, it would help local businesses who create local jobs and reinvest in the community.”
Elliff said nearly half of all Missouri cities with a population over 2,000 already have the Local “Use Tax” in place.
“Many passed it several years ago,” he said. “It is not a double tax as some have thought. The Local Use Tax applies only on transactions where no Sales Tax was already applied. If you paid a local tax at the time of purchase, you would not pay it again.”