Braun bill aimed at better treatment of taxpayers’ appeals

Taxpayers in Washington can face a lengthy and challenging process when disputing a tax assessment. To create a more open and fair process Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, introduced Senate Bill 5449 which would create a statewide elected Tax Appeals Division of the appeals court and eliminate the executive agency comprised of political appointees that currently hears tax appeals. The bill has bipartisan support and has already received a public hearing in the Senate before a joint meeting of the Trade and Economic Development and Law & Justice Committees.

“This bill is about fairness in the tax system,” Braun said. “The Council on State Taxation gives our state a ‘C’ grade for the appeals process. Washington is behind many other states in modernizing its tax appeals process. We need to streamline our process and create a fair and level playing field between the taxpayer and tax collector.”

Washington has a complex tax-appeals system that requires filing with different agencies depending on the type of tax. It also requires taxpayers to pay all taxes, fines, penalties and interest before seeking relief from a court.

“This legislation would not only improve the appeals process but also enhance our state’s business climate and reputation as a good place to do business. This bill sets high standards for those who will be reviewing these cases, lowers standards of evidence and has fewer steps for appellants. The result is a more transparent, simple and fair process that helps property owners and small businesses.” Braun said.

The current tax appeal agency, the Board of Tax Appeals, is comprised of gubernatorial appointees that may or may not have expertise in tax law. Under Braun’s proposed legislation, the Tax Appeal Division would consist of elected judges from each of the three divisions of the Court of Appeals. The new court would hear cases involving excise taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, and adverse rulings from a taxing authority.