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Board of Equalization: Democratic candidates

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Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:00 am

Three Democratic candidates are vying to represent the Board of Equalization's second district, which includes Lodi and Galt.

The News-Sentinel recently posed several questions to each of the candidates.

Why should average citizens and taxpayers care about the Board of Equalization?

Paul Avila

The California consumers, business owners, and property owners' mutually hold a common interest and caring concern that BOE's entrusted — holder and serves as a "wedge of conscience" for its constituents because it serves as a mighty lightning staff of fairness and voice for them. Unfortunately, this status appears to be eroded because current membership are either comprised by "appointments and acting as … "; ordained by a governor whose authority undermines a ratified representation by electorate by placing aspiring career politicians in its place. The subtle implication is the potential of tax expansion that is evident by the supportive budget of the organizational structure and its tax agenda.

Chris Parker

The Board of Equalization decides what's fair in California's tax system. The Legislature writes the law and the Board decides how the law applies. When the Board makes decisions based on sound interpretation of law, it helps restore integrity to the system — you know your neighbor is paying their fair share like you. Moreover, the Board can use its authority to close tax loopholes and hold accountable those who cheat. California loses around $8 billion per year to cheaters! When we focus on collecting those outstanding revenues, California will have more money for education, infrastructure and job creation.

Mark Stebbins

California citizens have a unique constitutional right to appeal any state-levied tax decision to the Board of Equalization, a representative elective board directly responsible to the voters. Taxation and tax decisions are the heart of democracy and liberty.

What single change or reform would you propose for the board?

Paul Avila

A reduction in the tax organizational bureaucracy structure and the prevention from Franchise Tax Board's encroachment, wanting to become a consolidation within BOE; in doing so, a substantial tax abatement saving would be experienced by the California taxpayers.

Chris Parker

The Board needs to function more like a court and less like a political body. The problem is that political decisions don't provide guidance to other taxpayers or practitioners, public or private, about how the law is being applied.

While each case is different, there could be a body of precedent, like we see from the U.S. Tax Court, that gives taxpayers certainty about how to be compliant with the law and what activities cross the line. Clarity about the law makes it easier for businesses to plan for the future because they know what to expect and can grow accordingly.

Mark Stebbins

I do not advocate changing the board.

How do you balance the needs of citizens who deserve efficient tax collection with taxpayers who may feel overly burdened?

Paul Avila

A realistic consideration is to design to identify and implement "overly burdened taxpayers" by providing them with friendly window of resolution mutually sufficiently tax structured it tax liability to taxpayers' revenue. An extreme consideration is eliminate consumer products sale taxes that would effectively profit the small-business owner as well as ordinary taxpayers'/consumers' buying power.

About the candidates

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Paul Vincent Avila

— Avila is an Ontario resident who has served on the Ontario-Monclair School District board for 13 years.
— He has 23 years with the California State Employment Development Department and is a Vietnam combat veteran.
— Avila has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English/creative writing from California State University, San Bernardino.
— He and his wife, Maryanne Margartet Avila have four sons and one daughter.

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Chris Parker

— Parker is a tax attorney for the Franchise Tax Board.
— He received his Juris Doctorate degree from the San Diego School of Law. He also holds degrees in taxation, biomedical science and biology.

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Mark Stebbins

— Stebbins lives in Stockton.
— He is a small-business owner and certified arborist; he also holds a real estate license.
— He served on the Stockton City Council in the 1980s.

Chris Parker

I grew up typing quarterly payroll reports on an IBM Selectric typewriter for my family's business. What took me hours takes computer software only minutes. California needs to look at updating its technology infrastructure to empower taxpayers by making it easier to file returns and substantiate information. Pilot projects like CalFile and ReadyReturn prove we can make filing fast, easy and free for simple returns. At a recent Science & Technology forum, participants were thrilled with the idea of filing a return from their smart phone. We need to continue to look for new ways to better serve taxpayers.

Mark Stebbins

Efficient and fair collection of taxes is the responsibility of the Board of Equalization. Levying of taxes is the responsibility of the Legislature and governor. Thus, I and other board members will recommend changes in the law to prevent the burden on individuals from being unfair or unequal.

Should the board be merged with the Franchise Tax Board?

Paul Avila

No! Both entities are inherently in conflict with each other. One designed to collect and assessed liability with the negative (a consensus) perception of "get the tax cheaters".

The other acting as a perceptive lesser evil of the two (a "wedge of conscience") and friendly hand, information, voice of assistance during over-tax burden experiences and especially during appeal hearing!

Chris Parker

Yes, where it creates a more effective and efficient operation. While the Board and FTB administer completely different areas of law and each has unique functions, they also have overlap in areas like collections. The collections departments of the BOE, Franchise Tax Board and Employment Development Department could work together to make more efficient use of limited resources. The benefits would be two-fold; we would not have two collections staff working on the same taxpayer, and the assigned collections staff member would have more information about the taxpayer, their particular circumstances and what options might be available for them.

Mark Stebbins

No, two members of the Board of Equalization comprise two of the three-member Franchise Tax Board: the State Controller and the Chair of the Board of Equalization. While both boards administer and collect taxes, expertise in income tax is with the Franchise Tax Board. In addition to the sales, use, excise and fuel tax collection, the Board of Equalization also serves as the appeal board for all taxes. That appeal function is key to a separate and unique board.

What unique qualities would you bring to the board that other candidates would not?

Paul Avila

My voice and inherent strength for righteousness for ordinary hardworking proud American people seeking a fair helping hand up (not charity), like those who tend be a silent majority who just want a fair share of the American Dream for themselves and their children.

I am not a follower! I am a leader! My life's experiences and overcome life's challenges supports and underscores that overt claim. I find my inner strength in the trust and faith in the Almighty!

Chris Parker

I am the only tax attorney running for California's tax board. The only candidate who's campaigned in 31 of 34 counties in the district to learn about what matters to the people who live in District 2 — from Weed to Ontario to Ventura. I grew up in a smallbusiness family and have a unique understanding of how small business works.

But, I've also been in government long enough to understand how it works and how to make it better. Finally, I am the only non-politician of the leading candidates choosing to be a problem-solver and innovator instead.

Mark Stebbins

As a business owner, I am the only candidate who has actually collected and paid sales tax. As the founder of the Community Garden Program in San Joaquin County, I decided soil level questions of equity, of effort, and allocation of resources. As a City Council representative I experienced the effects of tax allocation and policy. As president of the Stockton Council Parent Teachers Association I observed taxes and education.

My professional state licenses — Real Estate Agent, Notary Public, General Building and Electrical Contractor — and my agricultural background and experience with U. C. Cooperative Extension, and my certification by (I.S.A.A.) Nov. 5, 1988, as an arborist all are evidence of my interest and desire to serve. My life has been dedicated to the equality basic to this state an nation.

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