A Wichita Eagle news story (Help with historic houses, July 4, 2008) describes two apparently wealthy College Hill homeowners who plan to benefit from Kansas tax credits. These credits are given to people who own homes that have a historic designation.
If you own such a historic house and plan to, for example, replace the windows or the roof, the State of Kansas will give you a tax credit of up to 25%.
Sounds like a good program, doesn’t it? Tax credits — do they cost the state anything when given? Tax credits mean that your taxes are reduced. Suppose you spent $5,000 replacing windows. 25% of that is $1,250, so with a tax credit, your Kansas income tax would be reduced by $1,250. If your taxes were going to be $4,000, after the tax credit you’ll pay only $2,750.
(This is much better than a tax deduction, which reduces your taxable income and taxes, but by a much smaller amount. The highest Kansas personal tax rate is 6.45%, so reducing your income by the $5,000 spent on windows means a tax savings of $322.50. Not nearly as good for the homeowner as a credit of $1,250.)
The problem with all this is that unless the state reduces its spending by the amount of the tax credits, someone else has to make up the difference.
So, average hard-working Kansans of all income levels will pay more taxes so that gifts — wait, I mean tax credits — can be given to wealthy homeowners living in historic homes.
Now does this seem like a good program? The irony is that liberals (or “social progressives”) are usually in favor of historic preservation laws, while at the same time decrying tax giveaways to the rich, who do not pay their fair share, they say. Go figure.