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Taxpayers May Lose Deductions Due to Legislative Inaction

The failure of the Iowa legislature to couple state tax law with federal law could mean Iowans will pay more when they file their returns. (cohdra/morguefile)
The failure of the Iowa legislature to couple state tax law with federal law could mean Iowans will pay more when they file their returns. (cohdra/morguefile)
February 22, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa – In order to make filing taxes simpler, the State of Iowa has traditionally mirrored federal tax law, with federal deductions also applying to the state income tax.

The Iowa House has passed House File 2092, a bill to maintain that coupling, but Gov. Terry Branstad has recommended against it, and Democrats who control the Senate are siding with him.

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry supports the coupling. Its president, Mike Ralston, says it not only helps businesses, it also helps anyone claiming educator expenses and qualified tuition deductions.

"Those are two great examples of deductions that are normal, utilized by a number of taxpayers in our state – neither one would qualify," says Ralston. "To continue the long-standing practice of taking deductions, again like the educator expense deduction, qualified tuition deduction, and many others, coupling is just good policy."

If coupling does return, it may be retroactive, meaning some taxpayers would have to file amended returns to take advantage of those deductions. Meanwhile, some computer programs have presumed coupling would take place, so people using such software may have errors if coupling isn't restored.

Ralston says the need for amended returns would be unfortunate.

"The state is using taxpayers' money now. Taxpayers will have the opportunity to get it back, but they have to file an amended return, they have to wait for the refund to come," he says. "It's truly a hassle, not only for taxpayers, but for administrators at the Department of Revenue."

The main argument in favor of mirroring federal deductions is convenience - not having to deal with different federal and state rules.

"This is a case of just basic, good tax policy. It's long-standing practice in Iowa. The General Assembly has done it literally dozens and dozens of times in the past," Ralston says. "And that's certainly better than having to deal with multiple sets of rules and regulations."

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA