NewsCovering Colorado


More money, more questions: why TABOR refunds could be changing

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Posted at 1:16 PM, Jun 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-07 16:32:58-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — As Colorado Springs swore in a new Mayor Tuesday, one of the plans Mayor Yemi Mobolade has laid out in his first 100 days is to work with the city council on referring a Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) retention question to voters to fund a new police academy.

These types of questions are common throughout the state, for a few reasons. In 2023, you'll likely have to answer a few questions about what should happen with your tax dollars, that would normally be refunded to you under TABOR.

It's not clear if the Colorado Springs TABOR retention question would be on the November 2023 ballot, but at least two questions referred by state lawmakers will.

What is TABOR?

TABOR explained in 90 seconds

The Taxpayers Bill of Rights, more commonly known as "TABOR" was passed in 1992. It made several changes to how tax dollars are collected in Colorado.

The Basics of TABOR

  • Limits how much government can grow each year through a formula of inflation + population (i.e. if inflation is 8% and growth is at 2% the government can collect 10%)
  • Anything above the cap gets refunded back to taxpayers unless voters decide otherwise
  • Bans certain types of taxes such as a local income tax (Colorado has a flat statewide income tax)
  • Requires all tax increases to be approved by voters

The last time Colorado Springs asked voters to retain money above the cap was in 2021 to create a Wildfire Mitigation Fund. According to a city spokesperson, most of the time TABOR retention questions in Colorado Springs are a one-time collection.
As all questions in off-year elections in Colorado have to relate to TABOR, state lawmakers referred two questions to the 2023 ballot that could impact TABOR refunds. There's also another law that impacts how much money would be refunded.

Proposition HH

RELATED: Counties filed lawsuit

This question is facing an uncertain future as it's currently facing a lawsuit. This question would impact how much money is refunded under TABOR, in exchange for reducing a home's taxable value and reducing the rate used to calculate property taxes.

READ MORE: Democrats pass last minute property tax bill in Colorado, opponents say it will decrease TABOR refunds

Proposition II

Another question will ask if the state can retain about $23.65 Million collected from a tax created after the 2020 election on cigarettes, nicotine, and tobacco products.

Lawmakers have to ask if the state can collect that money because the amount surpassed state economists' estimates. Under TABOR, if a tax estimate is published in the state's "Blue Book" (which voters receive before every election with fiscal predictions/arguments for ballot issues) money over that estimate has to be refunded, unless voters agree otherwise.

The state's Legislative Council Staff Chief Economist says this has happened twice before in Colorado of estimates being off and voters being asked what to do about that money.

If this ballot initiative fails, it's important to note, the money collected from this tax wouldn't be refunded through income tax returns. It would be refunded to people who paid the tax on those products through a process the Department of Revenue will figure out.


But wait, there's more! Another bill passed this legislative session creates a flat rate on TABOR refunds, instead of a sliding scale based on income. Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law butnoted he wants to see more changes on TABOR refunds in the future, including reducing the state income tax.

Essentially, if Prop HH passes, single filers would receive $661 and joint filers would receive $1,322 on TABOR refunds. Lower-income earners would get more than usual and higher earners would get less.

A look at TABOR refund amounts if Prop HH passes.


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