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Colorado to Hold Tax Credits to Higher Standard

Senate Bill 203, passed in the recent legislative session, will require stronger oversight over tax expenditures. (Pixabay)
Senate Bill 203, passed in the recent legislative session, will require stronger oversight over tax expenditures. (Pixabay)
May 25, 2016

DENVER - A new law requiring stronger oversight over tax expenditures is headed to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk.

Colorado has close to 200 tax credits, deductions and exemptions that account for more than $4.6 billion in spending annually. Ali Mickelson, director of tax and legislative policy for the Colorado Fiscal Institute, said evaluating tax expenditures will increase transparency and accountability.

"When we find a new tax credit, which we inevitably do every year, and we hear that it's going to create jobs, this really puts that to the truth test," she said. "Is the tax credit achieving its purpose, and is that the best use of our state taxpayer dollars?"

Senate Bill 203 would treat spending through the tax code the same way it evaluates appropriations for kindergarten-through-12th-grade education or any other state spending. Mickelson noted that the law would require auditors to assess whether tax credits are achieving their stated goals and if they're making good on promises, such as increasing economic activity.

Because Colorado lawmakers have been quick to use the tax code for policy solutions -- to attract new businesses to the state, to increase the use of renewable energy and help struggling families through the earned income tax credit -- it's important for the state to know the return on its investments, Mickelson said.

"It's really important that we evaluate tax expenditures because they're pretty much direct spending, just like any other government appropriation, but through the tax code," she said, "and so they don't have the same level of scrutiny that other direct spending does."

Colorado is expected to join 21 other states that already have passed similar measures.

Details of SB 203 are online at leg.state.co.us.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO