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Indy Tax Conference Sets Stage for Next Pence Tax Push

Governor plans to make tax simplification top priority in 2015 legislature

Governor Pence says he hasn't pinpointed any specific taxes or deductions to be pruned from the tax code as part of a tax simplification push. But he's reaffirming a reform proposal will be among his top priorities in next year's legislature.

Almost as soon as this year's session ended with a deal on new business tax breaks, Pence announced he'd turn his attention next year to simplifying the tax code, with a conference of tax experts in June to kick off that effort.

Nearly two dozen economists and business leaders, including supply-side economics founding father Arthur Laffer and national anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, took part in a daylong summit discussing different pieces of the tax code, from income taxes to local levies.

Pence says the only thing certain is that his plan will be revenue-neutral. He says he hasn't targeted any particular tax or deduction for repeal.

But the governor says simplifying the multiplying length and complexity of the tax code would boost the economy. He says the instructions for Indiana's income tax are twice as long as they were 20 years ago, while the form itself is typically five times as long by the time you submit all the attachments. The state has added new taxes on items from hotel rooms to sporting-event tickets -- Pence says many of those taxes are earmarked for specific purposes, but says by definition, they nonetheless make the tax code more complex.

And Pence says with complexity comes injustice. He notes you pay no taxes on a frozen pizza in a store, but a pizza in a restaurant costs you both sales tax and food-and-beverage taxes.

Democrats are already scoffing at the conference – state chairman John Zody dismisses it as “political posturing.”  House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (R-Michigan City) argues the rightward tilt of the panelists makes any recommendations suspect.

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