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Tax cuts, voter ID law go into effect

Posted: January 1, 2014 - 8:58pm

LITTLE ROCK — Several tax cuts and a law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls are among laws enacted by the state Legislature in 2013 that took effect on New Year’s Day.

 Act 1459 eventually will reduce all of the state’s income tax rates, but the legislation was designed to be phased in over two years. Starting Wednesday, the law reduces the state’s lowest income tax rate from 1 percent to nine-tenths of a percent; it will reduce the rates for all other tax brackets by one-tenth of a percentage point starting Jan. 1, 2015.

The tax cut is estimated to cost $2.5 million this fiscal year, $30.4 million in fiscal 2015 and $55.7 million in fiscal 2016, according to the state Department of Finance and Administration.

“It’s a good start, putting money back in the pockets of Arkansas workers and starting with the lowest bracket,” Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, who sponsored the measure, said Tuesday. “I’m excited that we’re then going to be able to bring the rest of the rates down at least a little bit in January of 2015, and I’ll continue to work hard for us to bring the rates down more substantially over time so that we can be more competitive with the states around us and turn Arkansas into a good jobs magnet.”

Another phased-in tax cut taking effect with the new year is Act 1488. Under the law, capital gains in excess of $10 million realized this year or later are exempt from the state income tax.

The law also will increase the income tax exemption for net capital gains to 50 percent and increase the standard income tax deduction to $2,200 beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

Act 1488 is estimated to cost $600,000 this fiscal year, $18.1 million in fiscal 2015 and $24.5 million in fiscal 2016.

Also taking effect Wednesday is Act 1441, which creates a sales tax exemption on the utilities used by commercial agricultural structures such as chicken houses and greenhouses. The exemption is expected to cost $4 million this fiscal year and $10 million in fiscal 2015.

Act 1408 creates an exemption from the state income tax for service pay or allowances received by active duty members of the armed services, including members of the National Guard and Reserve units. The exemption is expected to cost $3.6 million in this fiscal year and $7.2 million in fiscal 2015.

ACT 1452 gives a volunteer firefighter an income tax deduction of up to $1,000 on required firefighting equipment and the loss of personal property in the course of firefighting activity. The deduction is estimated to cost $48,700 starting in fiscal 2015.

Also in effect is Act 595, which requires voters to show photo ID at the polls. The legislation was written to take effect on the later of two dates: Jan. 1 or the date when the secretary of state’s office has funding for the issuance of voter ID cards — funding that the office says it now has.

The Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has said it plans to file a legal challenge to the law, which it says will disenfranchise some types of voters, such as the poor and the elderly, who are less likely to have driver’s licenses or transportation to obtain a photo ID.

 Supporters say the law will prevent voter fraud.

 Also taking effect Wednesday are:

 —Act 713, which terminates the Arkansas Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool. The pool was created as a temporary way to provide health insurance to people who were unable to buy health insurance because of pre-existing health conditions. The federal Affordable Care Act now prohibits insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

 —Act 1260, which requires health insurance companies to give 60 days’ notice before making changes regarding certain drugs.

 —Act 1000, which places restrictions on the sale of fireworks, including banning the sale or use of sky lanterns.

—Act 1460, which clarifies the process for sealing a criminal record and sets forth who is eligible to have a record sealed. —Act 1301, which provides the requirements for sealing the record of a misdemeanor or traffic violation.

—Acts 407, 473, 545, 569, 586, 711, 762, 991, 1007, 1121, 1197, 1250, 1292, 1342, 1350 and 1407, which create various special license plates.

—Act 1355, which limits the types of special license plates to the number in existence at the start of 2014.

—Act 1067, which changes the boundaries of Boone and Carroll counties.

—Act 623, which regulates the imposition, administration and use of a charge on the purchase of prepaid wireless telecommunications service to help fund the 911 emergency response system.

—Act 1043, which authorizes the Arkansas Motor Vehicle Commission to regulate and license recreational vehicle dealers, manufacturers, distributors, factory representatives, manufacturer representatives and salespersons, and charge applicable fees.

—Act 1493, which provides the authority to issue or renew the driver’s licenses of eligible non-immigrant employees and their dependents for periods of extension.

 

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