Analysis: Hawaii Tax Review Commission Has Some Teeth


Proposed tax reforms stemming from the twice-a-decade task of evaluating Hawaii's tax code have been tough to pass. And most of the recommendations that have been implemented have been more housekeeping measures than substantive revamping.

That doesn't mean the Hawaii Tax Review Commission hasn't identified areas for major improvement. Suggestions over the years have run the gamut from eliminating the corporate income tax to ending the General Excise Tax exemption for nonprofit organizations. Previous commissions have also suggested revenue generators that quickly became hot-button issues of the 2011 legislative session: establishing a state lottery and taxing pension income.

A commission is formed every five years to try to ensure that taxpayers are paying their fair share. The panel is required by statute to provide lawmakers "an evaluation of the state's tax structure and recommend revenue and tax policy." (An online archive of the past commissions' reports can be found here.)

It's meeting on Thursday morning to finalize getting a contractor who can help analyze various aspects of the state's tax policy.

This year's members make up the sixth commission since 1983.

While the group is charged with a critical task, how much weight do their recommendations carry at the Legislature?

To find out, Civil Beat analyzed a 25-page report listing recommendations made by the five previous commissions, and what resulted from those suggestions. The report was complied by the 2005 commission.

100 Recommendations Since '83

The previous panels made a total of 100 recommendations to lawmakers between 1983 and 2007. Those included:

  • 7 overall tax recommendations
  • 26 General Excise Tax recommendations
  • 39 income tax recommendations
  • 28 miscellaneous recommendations
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