Local news from across the USA is filled with budget cuts and new proposed revenue streams for state and local governments.
As horse owners struggle with increases in line by line expenses--fuel, feed, hay, vet services--the possibility of new taxes is another cause for concern.
Here are a few examples:
WASHINGTON: Back in September, the state caused confusion by saying that horse boarding facilities were not farms and were not eligible for agricultural tax status. Recently, the state agreed to re-consider.
According to the News Tribune in Tacoma, Ken and Jan Culliton, who own KCJ Farms in Tacoma, are among those who were recently asked to pay more. They said they received a notice in September that unless they start engaging in a legitimate agricultural activity, they'll owe the King County Assessor's Office $135,000 in current and back taxes. And that's just for this year.
Washington's Open Space Taxation Act was designed to help farmers keep their land and limit development. Now the state will decide if horse boarding conforms with the intent of that act. And the Cullitons are holding their breath.
Click here for more information from the state's Department of Revenue; a hearing is scheduled next week.
CALIFORNIA: Holy vet bills! The state of California has singled out veterinarians--along with furniture restoration and golfing--as a service that should be subject to state sales tax. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes a whopping 10.25% sales tax on vet services. Professional services are not normally taxed in California.
One horse professional I interviewed this week on this subject confided that this new tax would be a disaster to horse welfare in the state. "People are already cutting back on vaccinations," he said. "What the state might make on sales tax would be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of managing an epidemic of one horse diseases or another."
The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) said that their lobbyist in Sacramento would "hit the ground running" the morning after this tax was proposed. A similar proposal in Minnesota was defeated, according to the CVMA.
The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 6,200 members.
Not much can be done when states raise sales tax across the board to raise revenue, but when changes like these are proposed on specific items or service providers, horse owners can unite and protest the changes. News items like these are reminders of why state horse councils, local horseowner groups, and communication networks between horse owners and agriculture and pet interests are so important.