The combustible states legislative session, which ended in overtime last week, could produce one more practical outcome – a new commission set up to ensure independence in examining Arkansans’ tax complaints.
The Act 586 legislative initiative establishes a three-person tax complaints committee that will be housed in the Inspector General’s Department. Arkansas joins 34 other states that have similar independent bodies to review tax complaints from residents and businesses.
So far, tax complaints have been resolved by administrative judges from the Ministry of Finance and Administration, a process that has not been very kind to those challenging the state on tax issues.
Little Rock tax attorney Matt Boch, who helped draft the legislation and champion the independent commission, says about 90% of cases have been ruled in the state’s favor.
With the new body, Arcansans may at least have a chance to argue in disputes with the state over a variety of tax issues, including income tax, sales taxes, and consumption taxes.
“The state has a certain skin in the game in tax disputes,” says Boch. “The idea is to move administrative complaints out of the tax office to a more independent body, with a panel of tax experts reviewing the complaints to give taxpayers more confidence in the process. The panel has extensive knowledge of Arkansas tax law and gives both sides a fair shake. “
A chief commissioner who is duly accredited as a chartered accountant and attorney will preside over the panel. Of the other two, one must be a CPA and the other a lawyer. All three are appointed by the governor, who has until July 1, 2022 to make his decisions.
Commissioners are selected by the governor based on recommendations from the Arkansas Supreme Court, the Arkansas Society of CPAs, and the Arkansas Bar Association.
It will take another 18 months for the commission to act. Legislation tells it to start hearing cases on January 1, 2023.
A single commissioner or all three can hear cases depending on the nature and importance of the challenge. Cases with a tax value of less than $ 25,000 are negotiated by a single commissioner, while contentious cases with a tax value of more than $ 250,000 are negotiated by the entire three-person panel.
The new law requires that a taxpayer’s disputed claim must be heard before any amount of tax must be paid.
Taxpayers have 90 days to appeal DF & A’s decision. The Commission has the opportunity to carry out on-site inspections. For example, if the dispute is about an exception related to machinery or equipment, the panel or an individual judge can visit the facility to review the equipment, determine how it is being used, and assess its value.
Although decisions are made public, all appeals are kept confidential: information and details of taxpayers are edited.
SUPPORTING YOUNG COMPANIES
Arkansas researchers and early stage companies can learn more about how to leverage the competitive Small Business Innovation Research funding program by participating in a multi-week accelerator initiative.
The federal program, often referred to as the America’s Seed Fund, awards approximately $ 3.7 billion in grants and contracts annually to early-stage small businesses. The Arkansas Program is a summer cohort hosted by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.
The application deadline is May 28th and the program starts in June. The accelerator, which will focus on US Department of Agriculture programs, will help participants prepare funding proposals and submit them to the Department of Agriculture.
“USDA has broad research topics that generally repeat from one funding cycle to the next,” said Rebecca Todd of the Arkansas Small Business Center. “One of the regular topics is Rural and Community Development, which is a series of project ideas that lead to solutions that will ultimately improve the quality of life in rural America.”
Visit asbtdc.org for more information.
Arkansas has the sixth lowest average electricity tariffs in the country, according to a national study that also stated the state has the lowest average housing costs in the United States.
The American Legislative Council’s Energy Affordability Report from April 2021 evaluated the electricity prices of each state in cents per kilowatt hour (KWh) using data from the US Entergy Information Administration.
The prices were divided into residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors.
“While the ‘total’ electricity price is the focus of this report, sector-specific prices are important as they can have a direct impact on a country’s economic competitiveness,” the report said. “Electricity prices in these sectors serve as important inputs for businesses and help determine how many and what types of businesses operate in this state.”
When looking at sector-disaggregated prices, Arkansas ranked first with the lowest average price in the residential sector and was noticeably competitive in the other sectors.
ECONOMIC SUPPORT FOR COVID
Arkansas small businesses and nonprofits suffering economic losses from the pandemic can now apply for assistance through the Southern Opportunity and Resilience Fund.
SOAR offers low-interest loans of up to $ 100,000 and free technical support for small businesses. The program is a new initiative with more than $ 50 million in initial commitments from philanthropic, private and corporate investors.
The fund works with local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and focuses on women- and minority-owned companies in rural areas and other under-banked entrepreneurs who have historically struggled to access capital.
“At Communities Unlimited we know how to get the capital we need into the hands of entrepreneurs from color and rural small business owners in the south. It takes trusting relationships, intensive technical assistance and capital to make loans,” said Ines Polonius, boss Executive Officer of Communities Unlimited, an Arkansas small business CDFI.
Participants will be matched with a participating lender who will assist the business owner with the application process and provide advisory support. Applicants can register online and find a lender in less than five minutes.
More information is available at thesoarfund.org.
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