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Lawyers and accountants are quick to oppose taxing themselves, slow to offer alternatives to fund Kirwan | READER COMMENTARY

William "Brit" Kirwan, who led the Kirwan Commission for education reform, testifies at the joint hearing on the legislation in Annapolis. Feb. 17, 2020
William "Brit" Kirwan, who led the Kirwan Commission for education reform, testifies at the joint hearing on the legislation in Annapolis. Feb. 17, 2020 (Amy Davis)

I had to laugh when I read the front page article about a proposed sales tax change (“Hogan: No new tax for schools,” Feb. 21). No, not at the unsurprising hyperbole of our governor who believes a broadening of the sales tax could “destroy” the economy, but at the responses of the accounting and legal professions to the prospect of having to charge sales tax on their services.

Tom Hood, executive director and CEO of the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants, warned that such a tax would be “difficult to enforce” and “unclear” as to how it should be applied when a client’s business operates in Maryland, with a sales tax, and other states without. Really? Accounting majors routinely take a class in cost accounting in which they learn to parse fractions of pennies to each segment of a production line to distribute costs accurately. Cost allocation is pretty much what accountants do, whether over processes, time periods or jurisdictions.

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Similarly, Victor Velazquez, executive director of the Maryland State Bar Association, advises that “the public” would deem it unreasonable to tax an injured person’s settlement. Hmm. Does that public disapproval kick in before, or only after the person’s lawyers have claimed a significant portion the settlement? To his credit, sort of, Mr. Velazquez does acknowledge that the objective of the tax — to better fund Maryland K-12 public schools — “seems applaudable.”

Both professions might enjoy more public and legislative sympathy if they were to apply their prodigious legal and financial expertise to helping to solve the funding dilemma posed by our state’s ambitious education goals instead of reflexively opposing the first option that affects them directly.

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Lorraine Rohlik, Jessup

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