Changes to the laws about how sales tax is collected in Colorado went into effect on December 1. These changes affect many small businesses in Colorado. The new laws require retailers who ship taxable products to consumers in Colorado to base the sales tax collected on the buyer’s address, not the seller’s. This gets complicated, however, because when adding up all the state’s cities, counties, and special districts, there are “683 possible sales tax rates in Colorado,” according to the Denver Post. So how can retailers learn about these changes and implement them? First of all, the good news is that the Colorado Department of Revenue is allowing a grace period through May 31, 2019, to allow retailers to implement these changes. You can find information about the grace period and FAQs about the changes on the department’s website. You can also learn more at Revenue Online.
How will this year’s ballot measures affect state taxes and spending if passed? While much of this information is detailed in the Blue Book, the Colorado Legislative Council has also issued fiscal impact statements for each ballot measure. These statements include more detailed analysis of each measure’s fiscal impact, including tables and side-by-side comparisons of revenues and spending with or without passage of the measures. The fiscal impact statements are also available in Spanish.
Income tax filing season has arrived. How do today’s incomes compare with those in the past? It’s hard to believe that just forty years ago the average annual household income in Colorado was only $13,214!
In 1977 the Colorado Legislative Council issued their tax study Colorado Statistics of Income: Individual Income Tax Returns, Fiscal Year 1977, which contains lots of data on Coloradan’s incomes and how much of it went towards taxes. Similar reports were issued for 1975 and throughout the 1980s and 1990s to help lawmakers determine state tax policy. If you’re researching the history of salaries and income in Colorado, these reports are a very helpful tool which have been digitized and made available online for easy access. Our library also has many other reports on income taxes; search our online catalog for titles.
As one of the largest portions of our state budget, school finance is something that the Legislature keeps close tabs on. There have already been a number of school finance bills introduced in the first month of the 2018 session.
Because of the number of laws that govern school finance in Colorado, such as the Public School Finance Act of 1994, marijuana revenue, and the State Education Fund, understanding how it works can be very complex. So the State has issued a number of resources that can be helpful for navigating the complex web of school finance laws. For starters, the Colorado Department of Education publishes an annual brochure entitled Understanding Colorado School Finance and Categorical Program Funding. Also, each February, the Colorado Legislative Council (the nonpartisan research office for the legislature) publishes their Report on the State Education Fund. The new edition was just released; previous editions can be accessed from our library.
Here are some other helpful resources for understanding Colorado school finance:
- The Impact of Tax Increment Financing on School Finance, Colorado Legislative Council, 2017
- The Negative Factor and Public School Finance, Colorado Legislative Council, 2015
- Colorado’s K-12 Education Funding Rankings, Colorado Legislative Council, 2015
- K-12 Funding Scenarios, Colorado Legislative Council, 2014
- Total Program Funding: Understanding the Formula for School District Funding, Colorado Department of Education, 2014
- School Finance: A Primer, University of Northern Colorado Education Innovation Institute, 2011
- Revenues and Expenditures, Colorado Department of Education, published annually
- Fiscal Health Analysis of Colorado School Districts, Office of the State Auditor, published annually
Data on Colorado public school finance can be found in the Department of Education’s annual data spreadsheets and on their Office of School Finance website.
We have many, many more resources available as well, including historical information. Search our library’s online catalog for more resources.
This month’s Colorado Heritage magazine contains a Q & A about historic preservation tax credits in Colorado. These credits, both state and federal, are designed to encourage property owners to repair, renovate, and preserve historic buildings by helping them save money on their taxes. In our library we have a number of resources that explain the process and eligibility for preservation tax credits:
- Colorado Historic Preservation Income Tax Credit (History Colorado)
- Colorado Historical Foundation Preservation Easements Program: Saving Buildings while Saving Taxes (History Colorado)
- Financial Incentives (History Colorado)
- Historic Property Preservation Income Tax Credit (Colorado Department of Revenue)
- Main Street Resources (Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Main Street Program)
- Preservation for a Changing Colorado (History Colorado and Colorado Preservation, Inc.)
- Preservation Tax Credits (History Colorado)
Tax season has arrived, and filing your taxes requires the disclosure of a significant amount of personal information — making it a target for thieves who want to steal your identity, or your refund. The Colorado Department of Revenue has issued some helpful tips, reproduced below, to heighten awareness and help protect yourself during tax filing season:
• Protect personal information. Treat your Social Security number, driver license number and other personal data as you would cash – don’t leave it lying around. Don’t overshare on social media.
• Use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Use automatic updates. Encrypt your tax returns and other sensitive data. Use strong passwords.
• Beware of phishing emails during this time of year. Are you expecting a message from your bank or tax software company to update your account? A link may take you to a fake website that is designed to steal your log-on information. The attachment you open may include a program that allows a thief to get into your sensitive files.
• Beware of phone scams referencing a tax filing or tax payment. If you get a call from an aggressive or belligerent person who says you will be sued or jailed if you don’t make an immediate payment, know this: that person is a fraud. Clever criminals pose as trusted organizations. While the Colorado Department of Revenue may contact taxpayers by phone about their Colorado tax account, the fraud review section will only contact taxpayers by U.S. Mail. If Department staff call you for official business, they will provide their name and office name.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind as you begin filing your taxes. For further information, the Colorado Department of Revenue has set up a couple of very helpful websites: Taxpayer Security Awareness and Reporting Identity Theft, and Taxpayer Identification Verification. You can also find helpful information about identity theft on the Colorado Attorney General’s Stop Fraud Colorado consumer protection website.
The Colorado Department of Revenue has just released its 2016 Annual Report. This annual report is one of the most useful and robust statistical reports published by the State. In the report you can find numbers on such topics as:
- Titles and registrations
- Licenses issued
- Permits issued
- Numbers of licenses in force, by type
- Organ donors
- Renewals and reinstatements
- Vehicle ownership tax collected by county
- Registered vehicles by type and by county
- Registered vehicles by plate type (special plates)
- Ticket sales by game type, including comparison with previous years
- Distribution of funds
- Number of dealer licenses by type
- Revenues and expenditures
- Fund distribution
- Revenue distribution resulting from Amendment 50
- Gambling intercept payments (restitution)
LIQUOR AND TOBACCO
- Tobacco sales violations and compliance checks
- Liquor licenses by type
- Liquor licenses by county
- Liquor sales violations
- Active licenses, medical and retail
- Application fees collected
- Sales and excise taxes collected
- Licensed businesses by county
- Live racing days
- Pari-mutuel sales (horse and greyhound)
- Pari-mutuel tax collections
- Racetrack and licensed off-track betting locations
- Sales and use tax net collections
- Income tax returns
- Tax credits
- Alternative minimum tax
- Refunds issued
- Distribution of tax collections by type
- Severance tax
- Gross receipts realized by source
- Cost of administration
- Individual income tax checkoffs
…and more. You can also compare this data with previous years by viewing the department’s past annual reports, available online from our library all the way back to 1942!
How much money is Colorado receiving from taxation of retail marijuana? And where does the money go?
The Colorado Department of Revenue provides answers to the first question. Their Marijuana Tax Data webpage includes monthly sales tax collection by county, a data archive, and total number of taxes, fees, and licenses in Colorado. They also have a Quick Answers page that covers marijuana tax information such as retailer and grower/manufacturer requirements, taxes for infused products (edibles), excise tax information, and medical vs. retail marijuana taxation information. More in-depth information, including copies of marijuana-related statutes, can be found at their Legal Research webpage.
The Colorado Legislative Council has recently published an Issue Brief to answer the second question. Distribution of Marijuana Tax Revenue is a quick, easy-to-understand overview of where the marijuana tax money goes. Check our library’s web catalog for more info and for new publications as the laws continue to change.
Unlike income tax, Colorado has had a property tax since the state was founded — provisions for a property tax were made in the original state constitution. In 1877 and 1899 the Legislature tweaked the property tax laws to equalize values. Then in 1902, a major property tax law was passed, resulting from the significant economic depression of the 1890s. A special session of the legislature was held in 1902 to address the issue and it established the law requiring all properties to be assessed annually. Then, in 1910, during an era of reform, a Tax Commission was established. You can find the annual reports of the Tax Commission in our library.
Laws were continually tweaked over the years, but the next major property tax law overhaul came in 1964. A dozen years later, Colorado State University held a tax law symposium, “Property Tax: Why, Where, and What Next?” The “primer” for the 1976 program, available in digital form from our library, discusses the history of property tax in Colorado and major legislation, along with a discussion of the property tax in our state. This is an interesting snapshot of tax laws as they stood nearly 40 years ago and provides an interesting comparison with today’s property tax laws, many of which are rooted in the laws passed during the early years of statehood, one hundred years prior to the report.
If you are selling goods in the State of Colorado your business is required to have a sales tax license (sometimes known as a vendor license). This license, through the state Department of Revenue, is required for the collection and distribution of sales tax revenue. The Department of Revenue has set up a helpful webpage with information about sales tax licenses/accounts. Here you can find out:
- Types of sales tax licenses
- How to get a license
- How to renew your license
- How to close out a license
- How to use Revenue Online to access account information
- Verify whether another business is licensed in Colorado
- Verify, add, correct, or make changes to your address, etc.
Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution is the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, often referred to as TABOR, and was approved by voters in 1992. One of the elements of TABOR is the TABOR refund, which goes back to taxpayers if revenue exceeds the state spending limit, as calculated by a formula in TABOR. This year is expected to be one of the years in which this occurs. For information on how the TABOR refund works, see the Colorado Legislative Council’s Issue Briefs, especially #15-08, Tabor Refund Mechanisms, published just this month. You can also find Briefs on marijuana’s effect on the TABOR refund; Colorado’s Constitutional Spending Limit, which breaks down the formula; and numerous other short, easy-to-understand explanations of Colorado’s economic issues.
Nope, it has nothing to do with Horace.
(Colorado Historical Society)
2014 W-2s are headed to a mailbox near you, so it’s time to start preparing for tax season. The Colorado Department of Revenue has set up a helpful webpage with quick answers to many of the most common tax questions, with special reference to Colorado’s specific tax laws. Here you can find information on such varied topics as tax forms, income tax credits, military filing information, direct deposit of refunds, part-year or non-resident filing, amending a return, tax refund interception, extensions, and more. Tax forms and instructions can be found here on the Department’s website. Further information on tax topics can also be found in the Department’s FYI series of fact sheets. These fact sheets are also available from our library, including back issues. Finally, if you still need help, the Department of Revenue has created a series of instructional videos and a taxation blog, which can both be found here.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ Division of Property Taxation publishes a series of brochures about property taxation in Colorado. These easy-to-understand brochures cover such topics as property valuation and taxation for residential, commercial, and agricultural properties; property tax exemptions and rebates for seniors, the disabled, and military/veterans, and more. Check our library’s web catalog for previous years’ editions of these brochures, as well as other helpful information on property taxes in Colorado.
If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you’d better hurry! Tax day is tomorrow. You can find all the resources you need on the Colorado Department of Revenue’s website — including tax forms, information on refunds, answers to common questions, updates on tax legislation, videos and fact sheets, tax filing information for flood victims, a tax blog, and more, in addition to the State of Colorado’s online filing system.
Yesterday Governor Hickenlooper signed SB13-213, the Public School Finance Act. This new law revamps the original 1994 Public School Finance Act. It is important that Colorado citizens to know about the Act because it will be on the ballot in November. The bill refers a measure to the voters that proposes raising tax revenue to help fund public schools. (Under TABOR, all tax increases are required to go before the voters.) The new Act updates the 1994 Act with provisions regarding financing for 21st century skills programs, online learning, concurrent enrollment, English Language Learners, At-Risk students, and other current education issues. Click here for detailed funding schedules and projections for the Public School Finance Act for the past ten years, available from our library.
Tax Day is only a month away. The State of Colorado’s Revenue Online has everything you need to know about filing your state tax return. If you have questions about your taxes, other helpful sources of information include the Colorado Dept. of Revenue’s Tax FYI fact sheets, Tax Information Index, and new TaxInfo blog.
Tax season is here; also, did you know that today is the 100th anniversary of the income tax? The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, authorizing a graduated income tax, was ratified on February 25, 1913 (you can read it here). Today, our state and nation’s income tax laws are varied and complex, but the Colorado Dept. of Revenue has simplified the laws for you in their FYI publications series. Each FYI fact sheet covers in plain language one area of income tax policy that consumers may have questions about, such as tax credits; tax forms; part-year residents and non-residents; interest; military servicepersons; pensions; filing jointly and/or with dependents; and much more. So if you have questions while preparing your taxes this year, the FYI publications – and our library – can help.
A new bill to be introduced in the Colorado State Senate will, if passed, revamp Colorado’s Public School Finance Act, which has been in place for about 20 years. According to an article in today’s Denver Post, the bill would enact sweeping changes to Colorado’s current school finance system, including abolishing the annual October 1 student count in favor of an average determined by four days per year. The bill would also tweak the ways smaller districts can pass tax increases; require transparency in district spending; and increase financing to special education programs. Should the bill pass the legislature, it would then have to go to a statewide vote because of provisions of TABOR that require all tax increases to be referred to voters.
Detailed information on district funding per the Public School Finance Act can be found here. Also, for an introduction to the Public School Finance Act as it stands today, see the Colorado Dept. of Education’s annual publication Understanding School Finance and Categorical Program Funding. Issues back to 2002 are online; earlier issues may be checked out from our library.
Today’s news that Walmart has pulled out of the old University Hospital site at 9th and Colorado in Denver, along with the city’s search for a tax revenue-generating use for the property, has spotlighted the issue of tax increment financing (TIF). So what are TIFs? A memo from the Colorado Legislative Council provides an explanation of TIFs and how they work, as well as background on how Colorado law authorizes downtown development authorities to use TIFs to finance their projects.
Tax day is one month away. If you haven’t done your taxes already, luckily there’s a lot of free information online that can help. For federal taxes go to www.irs.gov. There you will find tax forms, instructions, and information on new tax breaks and programs. Check out the list of free online filing services.
Information on Colorado state taxes can be found on the Colorado Department of Revenue website. State tax forms and answers to common questions are all online. They also have a free online filing option called NetFile. They recommend compiling your information on a tax form first before you start the online filing process. The Department of Revenue has a tax assistance hotline: (303) 238-SERV (7378) Customer Service Representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s also worth your time to check out the tax library for their FYI publications and tax information index.