Wisconsin offers tax exemptions for many personal property items. A group of businesses wants the state to completely do away with the tax. The Coalition to Repeal Wisconsin's Personal Property Tax claims the tax is unfair and disproportionately affects small businesses.
The Coalition charges that Wisconsin’s personal property tax restricts growth by discouraging expansion. Business owners must pay additional personal property taxes on any new or upgraded equipment; funds that could otherwise be used to hire new employees or reduce existing debt, the Coalition's website states.
"There's no rhyme or reason to what is exempted and what's not," said Coalition member Michelle Kussow. After more than 50 tax exemptions, small businesses still pay tax on such items as security equipment, signs, and store fixtures.
While many lawmakers agree that the tax should be repealed, there is disagreement about how to replace the lost revenue for local governments.
"There's fairly wide agreement that maybe the tax has outlived its usefulness," explained president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance Todd Berry. "But if you get rid of it, then local governments have to find a way to generate replacement funds. With the state's on-and-off budget problems, there's always something that lawmakers would rather spend the money on," Berry said.