Colorado is expected to return $2.7 billion to taxpayers. The legislature hasn’t determined how to refund the money.

If the legislature doesn’t act, the TABOR surplus will be returned through checks tied to taxpayers’ income levels, with higher earners getting bigger refunds. Democrats say that system is inequitable.

Jesse Paul
The Colorado Sun
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun
The House floor on the first day of the 2023 legislative session, Jan. 9, 2023, in the Colorado Capitol in Denver.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

Checks in the mail? An income tax cut? Property tax relief? 

State government is expected this year to collect $2.7 billion in tax revenue above Colorado’s constitutional cap on government spending, according to the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting, money that the Democratic majority in the legislature will have to decide how to refund.

The decision has to be made before the 2023 legislative session ends May 8, meaning lawmakers will have to act fast on the big-ticket item. The legislature didn’t learn until earlier this month, when it received its quarterly economic and tax revenue forecasts, how much money collected in the 2023-23 fiscal year, which runs through June 30, it would have to return.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a 1992 constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters, caps governmental growth each year to population increases and the rate of inflation. Any money collected over the cap has to be refunded, but the legislature has broad discretion over how the refunds are issued. 

Current law requires that the state first use the TABOR surplus to reimburse local governments for any property tax exemptions claimed by local seniors and disabled veterans. Last year, that was about $161 million of the more than $3.5 billion in TABOR cap excess

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