IRS tax forms with tax refund check taxes tabor

The bill that sends $400 in Taxpayer's Bill of Rights refund checks to taxpayers just as the fall election campaign season starts could be higher.

But while House sponsors cheered the possibility that those refunds could be higher, an amendment to Senate Bill 233 also suggests it could be lower. The House approved the amendment in advance of a final vote on the bill on Tuesday.

Under the current schedule, the money would have been sent out next April as part of the state's three-tiered TABOR refund mechanism, but Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers want to take the money available through the third mechanism, which deals with sales tax, and send those checks out in August or September of this year. Critics have called it a political ploy intended to boost Polis and Democrats in advance of the November election. Sponsors counter that that Coloradans, facing high food, housing and fuel costs, need the money now instead of waiting until next year.

Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada, told the House that initially the refunds would total about $1.4 billion in surplus TABOR revenues but that it could be more.

House Republicans repeatedly asked just how much more those refund checks could be, and why the bill, which was just amended on second reading yesterday, didn't include that information. 

Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, replied that the estimate would be based on the state's next revenue forecast, which would be presented to the Joint Budget Committee on June 17.

Jarrett Freedman, spokesman for House Democrats, told Colorado Politics that based on conversations with the Department of Revenue and the governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting, the rebate checks will, in fact, increase, and that they would have "a solid number to report" by the time the bill is signed into law. "The administration estimates it will be at least $500 for single filers and $1,000 for joint filers," Freedman said.

The checks would be equal for all taxpayers, regardless of income.

Based on revenue projections through April 30, the amendment allows the state to refund up to 85% of the TABOR surplus, and if revenue forecasts are what Democrats expect, that could make the checks larger. 

But there's a caveat. Under the amendment, if the state revenues are not what's expected and the bill as written would take more than 87% of the surplus, the checks would be lowered to avoid overpayment.

The bill's sponsors did not bring that scenario up during their discussion of the amendment or the bill, nor was it mentioned in a news release issued by House Democrats after the bill's passage.

SB 233 won a 56-9 vote from the House and now heads back to the Senate for review of House amendments.

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