If you're wondering what to do with your tax rebate check, the folks who brought you the tax initiatives have a suggestion: Give the money to their fight for permanent tax reductions.
Leaders of the Tax Limitation Coalition, which circulated petitions statewide to get three tax initiatives on the November ballot, said they have already received a few donations based on anticipated tax rebates.The suggestion that taxpayers spend their share of the state's surplus on the effort to win passage of the tax initiatives apparently first surfaced on coalition supporter Mills Crenshaw's radio call-in show.
Crenshaw, whose show sparked the tax initiative drive, said the callers told listeners that making the donation "is the best way to make sure we'll continue to have tax rebates."
The initiatives would set limits on property taxes and government growth; rollback tax increases passed by the 1987 Legislature including the increase that helped lead to the surplus; and give parents of children in private schools a tax credit.
The rebates were proposed by Gov. Norm Bangerter to return $80 million of the state's $110 million surplus directly to taxpayers. Another $10 million was allocated to education and the rest was put in a "rainy-day fund" during a special session of the Legislature earlier this year.
Utah State Tax Commission Spokesman Lee Shaw said the rebates will be mailed out beginning next Tuesday. The rebate amount will be roughly 12.5 percent of the total state income tax paid, with an average rebate expected to be about $142.
The coalition already has competition for the rebates. Each check will be marked with the telephone numbers of public education, higher education and social service offices should the recipient desire to return their rebate to state coffers.
Shaw said that people who plan to donate their rebate check should first deposit it into their own account and then write a check for the rebate amount. Just signing over their check, he said, will not allow them to legally deduct the donation from their income taxes.
One donor who decided not to wait until he received his rebate check to donate to the coalition is Davis County resident Ed Little, who retired to Utah two years ago from teaching high school in Southern California.
Little said he already mailed half of his expected $90 rebate to the coalition and the other half to Independent candidate for governor Merrill Cook, who entered the race at the urging of the coalition.
"I feel absolutely positive I would not have had that rebate had it not been for the tax limitation because government tends to keep what it gets," Little said.
He said he benefited from Proposition 13 in California, which slashed that state's property taxes, and expects to do the same in Utah if the tax initiatives are approved by voters in November.
"I got better and more frequent raises and my property taxes dropped considerably," Little said, adding that Utah's teachers could also get what he said would be a deserved pay increase if the initiatives are approved.