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Tom Yamachika

Tom Yamachika
Tom Yamachika is the President of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, a private, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to informing the taxpaying public about the finances of our state and local governments in Hawaii. Tom is also a tax attorney in solo practice and has been since early 2013. Prior to 2013, he was with the accounting firm Accuity LLP, which was formed in 2006 from the Honolulu office of Coopers & Lybrand (which later became PricewaterhouseCoopers). Before that, he served as an Administrative Rules Specialist in the State of Hawaii Department of Taxation from 1994 to 1996, where he drafted rules, interpretive releases, and legislation on several different state taxes. Prior to that, he practiced litigation and tax law with Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright in Honolulu.

TAXWatch: Whither the General Income Tax Credit?

Those of us who are getting along in years may remember the “general income tax credit,” a line on our state income tax return where we could claim a one-dollar credit. The saga of this credit tells us a little about a bold move undertaken in the 1978 Constitutional Convention and our lawmakers’ reaction, which was to beat it into …

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TAXWatch: Guess Which Agency May Be Forgoing Millions in Federal Dollars?

One article that recently appeared in the Star-Advertiser was titled, “State forgoing millions in federal reimbursements.” The state agency referred to in that article was our Department of Education. We have children from indigent families in our school system. Some of them, especially in special education, can and do benefit when they receive services from health professionals. When that happens, …

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TAXWatch: Guess Which Agency Can Impose State Tax?

Lots of the controversy swirling around the ballot measure seeking to impose a “surcharge” on investment property to support public education involves our Department of Education. The DOE currently receives an appropriation from the State’s General Fund of about $2 billion and is also able to pull from other funding sources such as federal funds. But did you know that …

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TAXWatch: Say It’s a Tax!

The news recently mentioned a lawsuit that the City and County of Honolulu, now joined by the other three counties, has leveled against our state government regarding the HSTA-sponsored constitutional amendment.  The counties, obviously not overjoyed at the prospect of the State slapping a surcharge on their primary source of revenue, want the courts to void the ballot question. They …

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TAXWatch: Taking Exemptions Without Really Knowing

These days, our General Excise Tax contains exemptions and reduced rates that are supposed to reflect commercial reality but often contain leaps of faith. One common example is the wholesale rate. If I sell you a mango that you then resell to someone else, then I need to pay not the 4% or 4.5% retail rate, but the lower 0.5% …

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TAXWatch: Raising Taxes Means Decreasing Prices?

I’ve often heard the argument that taxes on Hawaii real property are too low.  Because the taxes are low, the argument goes, prices are driven sky high, leading to economic pandemonium. But is that really true?  Maybe it’s just a question of semantics. Suppose I agree to sell you a house for $500,000.  But we aren’t able to get our …

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TAXWatch: Cashing In on Production Credits

In this space, I often have unflattering things to say about tax credits.  Every year, legislators propose tax credits for some little-noticed niche in an industry.  Sometimes the credit is well thought through, and sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes the desired effect can be accomplished more cheaply and simply, and sometimes the justification for the credit is sketchy at best. For …

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Weekends Safe Once Again, Maybe

Back in 2014, we wrote in this space about a nasty Honolulu City & County rule involving real property tax appeals.  That rule said that if you as a property owner didn’t like your real property tax assessment and you wanted to appeal it, the appeal had better be in by January 15th.  It didn’t matter if the government was …

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TAXWatch: Wayfair – Playing Catch-Up

This week, we continue with our coverage of Wayfair, the U.S. Supreme Court case that held online sellers can be made to collect state sales taxes even if they don’t have a physical presence in that state. Here in Hawaii, Act 41 of 2018 was fashioned after the South Dakota threshold and says that if a business has 200 transactions …

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TAXWatch: The Wayfair Switch in Time

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Wayfair v. South Dakota case.  It was a huge turning point in constitutional law involving the ability of states to tax “online sellers” such as Amazon, Newegg, and Wayfair. “Yeah,” you might say.  “I know about online sellers because last April, Amazon started charging Hawaii GET, so I had to pay …

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