Bi-Lo relocation offers lesson on the perils of high taxes, regulation

Bi-Lo relocation offers lesson on the perils of high taxes, regulation

March 25th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

With the big Bi-Lo grocery chain having 27 stores in the Chattanooga area, it is of some local interest that the chain recently transferred its headquarters from Mauldin, S.C., to Jacksonville, Fla.

There are multiple reasons why Bi-Lo made the move to Florida, but two significant factors came up in news coverage of the move:

* Florida has no individual income tax.

* Florida has traditionally avoided excessive regulation of business.

For the record, South Carolina is a generally low-tax state overall. But Florida's lack of an individual income tax and its reasonable regulatory burden made it more attractive to Bi-Lo -- even though South Carolina had actually put up more direct financial incentives in its effort to keep Bi-Lo based in that state.

Bi-Lo's move to lower-tax pastures is not especially surprising. As a rule, if you want more of something, you should tax it less and regulate it less. Florida, like Tennessee, does not have a general individual income tax, and so it is reaping the benefits of more economic development.

But even though we here in Tennessee do not have a general income tax, we do have a harmful and unjust death tax on inheritances -- money that typically has already been taxed multiple times before it is taxed again when a person tries to pass it on to his heirs.

Some leaders in Tennessee have acknowledged in recent months that the death tax is doing our state economic harm. Gov. Bill Haslam, for instance, recognized that the death tax and Tennessee's Hall income tax on stock sales and bond interest "chase capital away from the state."

That makes a proposal to cut the death tax in Tennessee both timely and welcome.