Lawmaker seeks more transparency after investigation into millions of tax breaks

A Utah State representative says he may file legislation to change laws that prevent lawmakers and the public from knowing who will receive $55 million in Utah sales tax breaks. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — State Representative Joel Briscoe says he is concerned about a pool of tax breaks that no one can track.

The public and lawmakers can’t access the flow of money — only the Utah Tax Commission can — and state law protects them from ever having to reveal who gets the tax breaks.

The breaks in questions are over $55 million in new online sales tax revenue the state expects to get in 2019. During a special session in July, lawmakers earmarked the money to manufacturing companies.

Rep. Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City) originally voted in favor of this, but says he’s now concerned about who ends up with the tax dollars from online purchases.

“We've closed that door and turned off the light," Briscoe said.

Briscoe sits on Utah's Revenue and Tax Committee, which debated the flow of money. The move blindly handed $55 million to manufacturing companies, and legislators aren't able to confirm the companies even do business online. Briscoe says the companies are not required to report how they use the benefit.

“So we have no idea how well these tax breaks are performing in terms of stimulating the economy," he said.

Briscoe says more transparency would allow lawmakers to cut back or even end tax breaks to companies not providing a promised benefit to the state, like job creation or community investment.

“No one would run a business not knowing what they were doing in their business was working, but we're running the business of the tax dollars and the business of Utah in the dark," Briscoe said. “A lot of people who are receiving tax breaks like it that way."

Briscoe said he is considering filing a bill in the upcoming legislative session to offer more transparency. 2News will follow up in January and see what happens.

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