About a million Washington taxpayers are waiting on one gift that's not likely to arrive in time for Christmas -- an extension of our sales tax exemption for another year.
Actually, regardless of when it arrives, the exemption won't really be a gift. It is our due as residents of a state that depends primarily on a sales tax.
The measure would ensure that in Washington and six other states with similar taxing systems, citizens don't have to pay more than their fair share of federal income taxes.
It's not some extra benefit, but puts us on a par with the 44 states that collect an income tax. Those residents know -- without waiting on Congress to act every year -- that they get to claim an exemption for state taxes.
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The principle is simple -- Americans shouldn't have to pay taxes on their taxes.
Sales tax dependent states should not have to continually fight this battle to be treated fairly, but Congress in its wisdom insists on renewing the exemption for a year at a time.
In a meeting last week to discuss tax issues with White House officials, Sen. Patty Murray made it clear that extending the sales tax exemption is a personal priority.
But despite sharing the same party as the president and holding leadership position in the Senate, the Washington Democrat may find herself out of luck.
A range of national issues vying for congressional attention -- renewing some or all of the Bush tax cuts, ratifying SALT II, extending unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans -- are likely to overshadow an issue affecting only seven states.
The best advice is to hold onto your 1040 for awhile before filing. This wouldn't be the first time Congress failed to extend the sales tax exemption until the start of a new year.
Fortunately, reason seems to prevail eventually and the measure is approved. It's mystifying, however, that Congress won't consider a more permanent solution.
Sure, there are some political advantages to fighting the same battle every year. Lawmakers from income tax states can swap their support for concessions from the delegations representing sales tax states.
And challengers in congressional races can always count on some of their fellow party members in power to keep the issue festering until November, since it makes incumbents vulnerable to charges they haven't done enough to secure the exemption.
The political games are more than an irritant. The tax savings for Washington families make a real difference, especially in these tough economic times.
In 2007, the most recent year of published IRS data, more than 975,000 Washington taxpayers took advantage of the deduction, for a total of $2.3 billion in reduced federal taxes, according to Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
The delay in extending the exemption is a disservice to millions of families in Washington, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota Texas, and Wyoming.
They shouldn't have to wait to see whether their government will treat them fairly this year.