At Wednesday’s forum of candidates for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas, the issue of candidate Wink Hartman and his residency arose. The discussion, however, didn’t lead to much new information about the issue.
In her question to Hartman, moderator Anita Cochran referred to a recent Wichita Eagle article about Hartman’s residency. Comments left to that article referred to the fact that Florida has no state income tax. Cochran asked: “Did he [Hartman] file as a Florida resident for federal taxes?”
Hartman replied: “The fact is, Florida does not have personal income tax. So obviously the article’s wrong on the first base. The second base: I have filed federal income taxes in the state of Kansas every single year.”
Cochran followed up: “So was the tax savings a factor in your decision to establish residency in Florida, or not?”
Hartman replied: “You’re using a word that’s kind of a misnomer: residency. I’m a resident of Rose Hill, Kansas.”
The problem with Cochran’s initial question is that the important issue is state income taxes, but she asked in which state he filed his federal taxes.
While Hartman’s answer contained a confusing claim about the Eagle article being wrong, he answered Cochran’s question about filing federal income taxes. I don’t think it matters much in which state he filed his federal taxes, as federal tax rates are the same across the country. But Kansas has a personal income tax, which is a not insignificant 6.45 percent in the top bracket.
In response to a query by email, Scott Paradise, manager for the Hartman campaign, wrote “Wink has paid all of his state income taxes in Kansas. We couldn’t be more clear on this issue.”
I hate to get too picky, but that answer is different from saying that Hartman filed Kansas state income tax returns. These answers are not going to satisfy his critics on this issue.
In the end, the issue of taxes may not be the most important issue. First, income earned in Kansas must be declared on a Kansas state income tax return. The Kansas tax instructions define “Kansas source income” as, in part, “Income from a business, trade, profession or occupation operating in Kansas, including partnerships & S Corporations.” Even if filing as a resident of another state, the Kansas income tax must be paid.
So Hartman’s businesses — at least the ones operating in Kansas — would pay Kansas taxes in their income.
Second, most people engage in strategies to minimize their income tax bill. They hire tax preparers or use software to find all available deductions and credits, whether they be straightforward in the law, or loopholes. In fact, state and federal government use tax deductions and credits to distribute largesse and influence the behavior of people, so government expects people to make use of them.
Those with high income or wealth usually hire experts to plan in advance how to structure their business or personal affairs in a way that maximizes their income or wealth after taxes are paid.
So if a homestead tax exemption is available, most people, I think, would claim it.
The issue of Hartman voting in Florida is more important to me. He and his wife could have voted in Kansas very easily, and it wouldn’t have cost more than the effort to request an advance ballot by mail and a few postage stamps.