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OPINION: SD has extremely favorable tax, business environments

The first bill we took up in Tax Committee was HB 1048 updating the statute that refers to statements on auditing standards and changing to the year referenced to 2017, the most up to date standards.

The Department of Revenue uses the Statements on Auditing Standards when doing audits. The bill passed the committee unanimously. The Tax Committee also had informational briefings from The Department of Revenue. They gave a history of South Dakota's sales tax and the variety of taxes that make up South Dakota's tax structure. South Dakota has a broad tax structure with the sales and use tax being the biggest source of general fund revenue for the state.

A number of sales tax exemptions also exist in state law. The ongoing issue of online sales tax was discussed as well. I've been asked on occasion how much Amazon is expected to bring in as they voluntarily collect sales tax for the state; it was stated in Committee that the amount of sales tax collected from anyone is confidential. South Dakota has no individual or corporate income tax and has one of the most favorable tax and business environments in the country thanks to the governor and the legislature.

HB 1026 revised requirements for the practice of cosmetology and HB 1040 revised licensing requirements for professional counselors. The bills have the support of the South Dakota Cosmetology Commission and counselor organizations respectively; I voted yes on both; HB 1040 passed unanimously and HB 1026 passed 58 to 11. We often see many bills in the legislature relating to licensed professionals; these two bills will help with recruitment of skilled labor jobs.

HB 1084 is the first bill I presented to a committee this session. It simplifies the form that is filled out for garnishments. The statute provides a guideline for the form; HB 1084 cleans up language and corrects the definition of disposable earnings. Current statute states on the form that child support is used to calculate disposable earnings, but disposable earnings is income minus deductions such as FICA and income tax withholding. Payroll standards don't include child support when calculating disposable earnings. It's important for the garnishment form to be easy to understand for employers and businesses that provide payroll services. The Judiciary Committee passed the bill without an opposing vote and it will be on the House floor next week.

The deadline for a legislator submitting a bill is Thursday, Feb. 1. Overall, we are expecting a large number of bills compared to recent sessions.

I had the privilege of meeting with over 30 ASSE exchange students. Pam Godlevsky from Scotland, South Dakota, is an area representative for the exchange student organization. The students visited the Capitol and I had a chance to address them and tell them about being a legislator, a Certified Public Accountant, and took what I thought were very good questions on a variety of topics. It was great to see such a strong interest in South Dakota Government by young people from all around the world.