Slowdown in Tax Collections Less Severe for Local Governments Than for States

Government Finance Review, February 2010 | Go to article overview

Slowdown in Tax Collections Less Severe for Local Governments Than for States


Tax collections nationwide declined by 10.9 percent during the third quarter of 2009, the third consecutive quarter during which tax revenues fell by double-digit percentages, according to a recent report from the Rockefeller Institute of Government. The tax slowdown is less severe for local governments than it has been for states. In the third quarter of 2009, local tax collections showed modest growth of 0.7 percent. Most local governments rely heavily on property taxes, which tend to be relatively stable and rose by 3.3 percent during the quarter. Local sales tax represented about 15 percent of total local tax collections and showed a decline of 8.4 percent in the third quarter of 2009.

For the fourth quarter of 2009, early data showed continuing declines, but the negative trend of the past year appeared to be moderating, according to the report, titled Recession or No Recession, State Taxes Remain Negative. For 38 early-reporting states, personal income taxes fell by 6.5 percent during October and November, while sales tax collections declined by 5.5 percent.

The first three quarters of 2009 marked the largest decline in state tax collections since 1963, according to the report, which combines current data with comparable historical figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Western states saw particularly sharp declines in tax collections during the third quarter, with revenues falling by more modest levels in the Southeast, New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Plains regions.

The authors of the report noted that economic conditions have improved for many states, but tax collections are expected to remain weak and budget problems will linger through 2010. …

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