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Push underway to implement flat tax in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – An ongoing push in Kansas seeks to implement a flat tax in the state. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has already presented its idea, a 5% individual income tax and corporate tax rate. With new numbers released Monday, the revenue department said it could cost the state about $1.5 billion in revenue, starting in 2025.

Currently, Kansas has a graduated tax structure, meaning that what an individual earns or a business’s income determines the tax rate. The Republican leadership in the Kansas Legislature says one of its goals this session is to simplify and flatten the state’s tax code. But Gov. Laura Kelly has previously said she would oppose any tax proposals that would erode the state’s fiscal stability.

In Kansas, the current tax rate starts at 3.1% for people with an annual income of less than $15,000. It increased to 5.25% for those between $15,000 and $30,000. The 5.7% rate applies to those with annual incomes of $30,000 and above. A flat tax would eliminate all of those and set everyone at the same rate.

Friends University political science professor Dr. Russell Arben Fox, said there are supporters and detractors of the proposed flat tax in Kansas.

“Most economists recognize that flat tax regimes are almost inevitably regressive,” he said. “They end up hurting low-income people the most.”

Dr. Fox also discussed the other side.

“There are some people who oppose this and say so [there are] benefits of a flat tax, where it will be more popular with taxpayers and easier to manage.

Dr. Fox said a flat tax is often more popular with higher incomes who often vote Republican and find it attractive because of its simplicity.

He said it can be compared to sales taxes; when an item is bought, everyone pays the same tax on it.

“If you make less than $300,000 a year and you have to go buy a gallon of milk and pay taxes, that’s a lot less taxing on your wealth than someone making less than $30,000 a year,” helps Dr. Fox.

He said right now that he sees any flat tax proposal as a message rather than a concrete policy. There is also the memory of former Kansas governor Sam Brownback and his tax experiment.

“I would say on the Republican and Democratic sides, Sam Brownback’s legacy, both positively and especially negatively, is very, very real,” Dr. Fox said.

12 News reached out to the Kansas House about its flat tax plans and the tax blow from removing $1.5 billion in state revenue starting in 2025.

In a statement, the House said that’s not surprising and added that it looks forward to working with the legislature on comprehensive tax reform this session, saying it is necessary to make Kansas a more competitive and attractive state in which live and work.

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