Lake County income tax provokes more questions than answers

2013-04-28T22:20:00Z 2013-04-29T14:27:05Z Lake County income tax provokes more questions than answersBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
April 28, 2013 10:20 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The local income tax the Lake County Council passed has raised questions, and fueled anger and confusion.

The council approved ordinances authorizing a 1.5 percent tax on first reading April 9 by a 4-3 margin.

However, the tax was buffeted by political currents last week when legislation to divert part of the revenue to commuter train development caused council members to call a special meeting Friday to avoid the diversion by passing the tax on second reading in its original form.

Legislators, however, chose not to meddle with the tax Friday and council members canceled their meeting, announcing they had failed to publish notice of their proposed vote far enough in advance.

The council is next set to meet May 14.

Council members said they have been bombarded in recent weeks with questions about who will pay the income tax, whether Social Security or pensions will be taxed, who will get property tax relief and other technical queries.

They said the consensus around a final form of the tax is so fluid it's hard to nail a definite picture of the tax's details and impact.

If the income tax passes again May 14, then the proposed tax goes before the three-member Lake County Board of Commissioners, where two of the three commissioners have said they cannot support it.

If commissioners veto it at their next meeting, the council will get a chance to override that veto at a subsequent meeting, so long as it has five votes.

While county officials sort out the tax issue, the Indiana Department of Revenue, which has oversight of other county option income taxes, has its own fact sheet and can declare some things with a degree of certainty, according to Robert Dittmer, director of public relations for that department.

He said the tax would be imposed on all Lake County residents as well as anyone, including out-of-state residents, who earn income from work performed within the county.

The Indiana Department of Revenue collects the tax from an individual's adjusted gross income as calculated on the IT-40 state individual tax form.

He said a local income tax wouldn't be imposed on Social Security benefits.

An individual's taxes would be distributed to the county in which they reside, even though they may work in another county. Out-of-state residents working in Lake would pay a reduced non-resident rate, yet to be determined.

Lake County residents who have earnings from outside the state must pay the tax regardless of the source of those earnings.

There is no double taxation for Northwest Indiana residents who live in Lake, but work in another county, or who live in another county, but work in Lake. Dittmer said they only pay one tax.

The current proposal would earmark $90 million of the income tax for property tax relief, although not everyone will see a reduction in their property taxes.

Tens of thousands of income taxpayers living in Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, Whiting, Lake Station and Griffith won't get any help from the income tax, because property taxes there are so high they already are getting all the tax relief the state Constitution permits under the circuit breaker system.

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