Oahu’s 2014 Real Property Tax Advisory Commission Convenes

28 05 2014

Hawaii is among a number of states that require a periodic review of its tax structure. Seeing that the Hawaii State Constitution was amended in 1978 to establish a Tax Review Commission, I felt that Oahu taxpayers should also have the same benefit of a periodic review of the City’s tax policy. In 2011, I introduced a resolution that established an Advisory Commission to review the City’s real property tax system. This year, Commissioners will once again conduct a review of the city’s property tax classifications, exemptions, credits and minimum property tax rates. The Advisory Commission will complete its review and provide recommendations to the Council in December to enable the Council to evaluate the recommendations prior to the start of the next Fiscal Year.

Without question, property tax exemptions provide the largest source of tax relief to individuals and institutions such as current exemptions for historic residences and non-profit organizations that include hospitals, schools, child care centers, credit unions and churches. Exemptions are also provided to homeowners that are disabled, living on Hawaiian home lands or in low to moderate income housing. The City currently provides tax relief in the form of exemptions to nearly 163,000 properties totaling an estimated $48 million in uncollected tax revenue. I feel it is important to engage a group of experts from the community who can validate the need for such exemptions or make recommendations on possible changes to the City’s basic tax policy. Although members may represent specific special interests, they are asked to put aside those interests and conduct a fair review of the exemptions in favor of recommendations free of any bias to special interests.

In 2011, the seven member advisory commission adopted the criteria employed by the State’s Tax Review Commission. The six standards are equity, adequacy, stability, efficiency, simplicity, and competitiveness. In a nutshell, the tax burden should be fairly shared, it should generate sufficient tax revenue to meet expenses, it should provide a stable flow of income, not provide an advantage to one party over another, it should not be unduly difficult to comply or administer and it should compare favorably with tax systems of other counties. The 2011 Final Report of the Oahu Real Property Tax Advisory Commission is available online.

The first meeting of the 2014 Oahu Real Property Tax Advisory Commission.

The first meeting of the 2014 Oahu Real Property Tax Advisory Commission.

Today, five of the seven new members of the Commission: Mr. Thomas Yamachika, Interim President, Tax Foundation of Hawaii; Mr. Eugene Soquena, Mechanic, Colluccio Construction; Mr. Ray Kamikawa, Tax Attorney, Chun Kerr LLP; Mr. Nelson Higa, Director of Strategic Development & Government Affairs, Honolulu Board of Realtors; and Schuyler E. “Lucky” Cole, CEO/Owner, Team Real Estate convened for their first meeting to elect a Commission Chair and Vice-Chair and to discuss their goals and objectives, set a time table and their schedule of meetings. Mr. Ray Kamikawa was selected as the Commission Chair and Mr. Thomas Yamachika as the Vice-Chair. The two members excused from the meeting were Ms. Amy Hirano, Retired President, PMCI Hawaii and Mr. Howard S. Garval, President and CEO, Child & Family Services.

Council Chair Ernest Martin conducted Commission business until the Chair was elected.

Council Chair Ernest Martin conducted Commission business until the Chair was elected.

I asked North Shore resident and businessman Lucky Cole to serve as a member and he accepted. I am confident that he will bring an interesting perspective to the discussion. I know that the 2014 Real Property Tax Advisory Commission will take up the challenge to once again review and rate the City’s current tax policy and make valuable recommendations that will help to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of City government.

Lucky Cole and Chair Ray Kamikawa

Lucky Cole and Chair Ray Kamikawa


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