BILL ANALYSIS Ó SENATE GOVERNANCE & FINANCE COMMITTEE Senator Lois Wolk, Chair BILL NO: SB 211 HEARING: 5/1/13 AUTHOR: Price FISCAL: Yes VERSION: 2/11/13 TAX LEVY: No CONSULTANT: Grinnell TAX ADMINISTRATION: DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION: FRANCHISE TAX BOARD AND CITIES Eliminates the sunset on the state-local tax sharing program; allows agents to receive confidential state tax information. Background and Existing Law Existing state and federal laws generally prohibit unlawful disclosure or inspection of any income tax return information. Existing state law (allows a committee of either house of the Legislature to examine confidential taxpayer information. Criminal sanctions, including imprisonment, apply to FTB personnel convicted of unlawful disclosure or inspection of tax records. The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) must notify a taxpayer if criminal charges have been filed for willful unauthorized inspection or disclosure of their tax data. Tax information sharing between the state and local agencies dates back to 1984, when FTB first sponsored legislation mandating California cities to annually report information obtained from businesses they licensed. FTB used the information to identify new businesses that were obtaining local business licenses and paying business license taxes, but may not have been filing state income tax returns. While the program generated revenue, the Legislature repealed the program in 1999 because the cost of state reimbursed mandate claims from local agencies grew too much, making the program no longer worth its cost. In 2001, the Legislature reenacted the program, but in the reverse: it allowed city tax officials to obtain state income tax information subject to a written agreement between FTB and the taxing authority of a city (AB 63, Cedillo, 2001); FTB charged the cities for its costs for SB 211 - 2/11/13 -- Page 2 collecting and sending the information. The Legislature extended the program in 2006 until 2011 (SB 1374, Cedillo). In 2008, the Legislature extended the program until 2014, but allowed cities to offset costs paid by providing its business license tax information to FTB to assist Personal Income and Corporation Tax collection (SB 1146, Cedillo). Under the program, FTB may grant information limited to a taxpayers' name, address, social security or taxpayer identification number, and business activity code. Only city employees may use the tax information provided to the city, and may only use it for tax collection purposes. Proposed Law Senate Bill 211 removes the sunset on the state-local tax information sharing program, and allows agents of the city to receive information. State Revenue Impact According to FTB, SB 211 would result in revenue gains of $1.5 million in 2014-15, and $4.9 million in 2015-16. Comments 1. Purpose of the bill . According to the author, "SB 211 would repeal the sunset date currently in statute and ensure the continuity of a proven cost effective tax data sharing program and would preserve the revenue benefit to the state and participating cities." 2. Agent zero . Municipalities often use consultants to collect taxes on contingency, most notably Muni Services, LLC and HdL companies. However, statute prohibits cities from sharing information obtained from the FTB with these agents due to privacy concerns; consultants work on contingency and have little incentive to safeguard information. SB 211 would expressly allow these agents to receive this information. In 2009, the predecessor to this Committee, the Committee on Revenue and Taxation, approved SB 1036 (Cedillo), which would have allowed agents to receive data, but only those that had an existing relationship with the city, and placed several SB 211 - 2/11/13 -- Page 3 restrictions' on agents use of data. However, the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation rejected the bill due to these concerns. SB 211 doesn't apply unlawful disclosure laws to these agents, excluding them from the section that binds city officials' use of the information. The threshold question for the Committee posed by SB 211 is: who are these consultants, and can they be trusted to keep confidential private taxpayer information when working on contingency? Second, are more protections needed to safeguard the use of the data? The Committee may wish to consider the rules for allowing private sector consultants to receive this information, or whether it should be allowed at all. 3. The sun also sets . SB 211 repeals the tax information sharing program's sunset date of December 31, 2013. While there is no hard and fast rule for eliminating any given program's sunset date, the Committee may wish to review this program again instead of granting this program permanence. The Committee may wish to consider granting a five-year extension instead of deleting the sunset, especially if it chooses to allow agents access to the data to review the tradeoff between revenue and privacy. 4. Get some . FTB states that it currently has a reciprocal agreement with 102 cities in California, which costs $718,000 annually. The following cities reported the following revenue amounts due to the program: City of Los Angeles ($13.9 million) City of San Diego ($1.1 million) City of Newport Beach ($360,000) City of Oakland ($260,000) City of Menlo Park ($172,000) City of Concord ($154,000) City of Sunnyvale ($131,000) Support and Opposition (04/25/13) Support : California Municipal Revenue and Tax Association; California Professional Firefighters Association; City of Big Bear Lake; City of Brea; City of Buena Park; City of Carson; City of El Paso De Robles; City of El Segundo; City of Fremont; City of Menifee; City of Montebello; City of Newport Beach; City of Oakland; City of Palo Alto; City of Pasadena; City of Red Bluff; City of Roseville; City of SB 211 - 2/11/13 -- Page 4 Sacramento; League of California Cities; Sacramento Municipal Utilities District. Opposition : California Taxpayers Association.