Teabaggers Say No to Missouri Flip Tax

Have the tax-hating teabaggers worked their way into the Missouri real estate market?

If the apparent groundswell of support that surrounds the state's "Vote Yes to Stop Double Taxation" campaign is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.

A group of businesspeople, homeowners and Realtors are proposing an amendment to Missouri's state constitution to prohibit the state and local governments from introducing a transfer tax, a tax paid each time a property title changes hands. Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia charge a transfer tax--including Missouri neighbors Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas.

But is this all a tempest in, well, a teapot?

Polling done by the Missouri Association of Realtors, the major funder behind the campaign, reports that 7 out of 10 registered voters in Missouri support the proposal to amend the constitution. Backers of the preemptive measure hope to get it on the ballot in the November 2010 general election by gathering some 157,000 signatures.

Supporters of the amendment argue that transfer taxes unfairly impact owners who are buying or selling properties, particularly low income earners. Realtors also fear that a transfer tax would deter residential sales in an already flagging real estate market. (A video on the web site, www.yestosavehomes.com, does its best to create a sense of urgent alarm).

But transfer taxes have their benefits. In some states, they are used to fund programs designed to preserve open spaces in commercial or residential areas. And despite the concerns of the Vote Yes crowd, transfer taxes also often fund housing programs for low-income residents.

And, even if Missouri were to impose a transfer tax, there's no guarantee it would hurt. Transfer taxes around the country range the gamut from Colorado's tiny 0.01% to the city of Pittsburgh's exceptionally high 4.0%. In some areas, buyers and sellers are legally required split the cost of the tax, lightening the burden on any single party in a transaction.

Meanwhile, the Show Me state hasn't even actually proposed a real estate transfer tax -- activists believe, however, that it is a likely outcome, considering the state's declining tax revenues. Like other states, Missouri is feeling a crunch from the recession. State officials reported on Feb. 2 that year-to-date revenue for the 2010 fiscal year is down 12.5 percent compared with the same period in 2009.

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