DOUGLAS FOXLEY, FRANK PIGNANELLI, AND STEVE FOXLEY
Traditionally, a post-legislative session wrap-up would include a laundry list of bills the Bar supported or opposed along with other items of interest. But in the recently concluded 2019 Legislative General Session there was one matter that almost every lawyer in the state followed, commented on with lawmakers, and discussed with colleagues, friends, and family members.
Therefore, we provide a review of 1 H.B. 441 Substitute – Tax Equalization and Reduction Act (Rep. Quinn – Republican, Heber City) – and again ask for your help.
In December 2018 Bar leadership (along with other trade associations) were asked to meet with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget. Bar leaders learned of the concerns regarding the General Fund and the potential diminishment of sales tax revenues as a percentage of the overall budget.
To counter this, the executive branch was seriously considering an expansion of the sales tax to include professional services.
Similar proposals have been discussed by governors in the last thirty years and gained little traction with lawmakers. However, bar lobbyists reviewed the issue with Bar leaders and suggested that preliminary research be conducted should a need to inform lawmakers as to our concerns develop. By mid-January 2019, the issue was discussed by lawmakers but with little clarity as to the extent of “broadening the base.” We remained in contact with Bar leadership and started circulating a white paper detailing the concerns of a sales tax on legal services.
In late February, our sources and the media revealed that a number of professional services were to be targeted for sales tax collection. It was at that point Bar leadership sent an email to all members requesting that they contact their legislators expressing concerns. On Wednesday, February 27, Bar President Dickson Burton emailed all Bar members and asked them to contact their elected representatives with concerns. Attached to the email was a position paper that outlined matters of concern that the Bar is allowed to convey to lawmakers: access to justice, availability of legal services to all citizens, and adherence to constitutional principles. The Bar cannot make direct statements regarding policy and how it may impact regulatory and economic activities beyond the items detailed above. However, attorneys were encouraged to contact local lawmakers to express their own concerns with the proposed tax. Many members did so and had an important impact on deliberations.
The bill was formally introduced to the House of Representatives the next day, February 28.
On Friday, March 1, the...