Retailers to file sales tax cut ballot question

Proposal would lower tax to either 5% or 4.5%

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Massachusetts voters in November 2018 may have a major tax cut on their ballot to go along with a proposed surtax on high income households.

Retail industry officials are poised to file initiative petitions that would reduce the 6.25 percent sales tax rate to either 5 percent or 4.5 percent, the News Service has learned.

“Massachusetts small businesses that employ thousands of workers are significantly disadvantaged when competing with stores in tax-free New Hampshire and big online retailers,” Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Reducing the state sales tax will help small business remain competitive, while also putting money back in the pockets of those who need it most including seniors on fixed incomes and working class families.”

The Legislature in 2009 raised the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent to plug state budget gaps that developed during and after the Great Recession.

The association plans to talk to its members in August before deciding which of four questions to build a campaign around.

The four options are reducing the sales tax to 4.5 percent, reducing the sales tax to 5 percent, reducing the sales tax to 4.5 percent and establishing a permanent two-day sales tax holiday in August, and reducing the sales tax to 5 percent and establishing an annual two-day sales tax holiday in August.

In the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, the state Department of Revenue reported collecting $6.209 billion in sales taxes, including $4.252 billion in regular sales taxes, $1.106 billion in sales taxes on meals, and $851 million in sales taxes on motor vehicles.

The sales tax is the state’s second largest revenue source, behind the income tax, which generated $14.696 billion in tax revenues during fiscal 2017.

The proposed income surtax, a constitutional amendment that some have labeled the millionnaire’s tax, would add a 4 percent surtax on annual income above $1 million, with the resulting revenues targeted for spending on education and transportation only. Supporters say it could raise $2 billion a year.

The deadline to file initiative petition language is Wednesday at 5 p.m. The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition announced on Monday that it is filing ballot questions raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and seeking guaranteed paid family and medical leave.