As sales tax decision looms, Senate forms retail panel

Filed Under: Other News

Massachusetts retailers have been burning mad for a while over their treatment on Beacon Hill.
First the Legislature raised the sales tax from 5 to 6.25 percent in 2009. Then tax-free online sales took off and pleas for a more level playing field for brick and mortar stores, which are often community anchors, went largely ignored. Now, in the latest slap, the Legislature slipped off Beacon Hill for the summer without even voting on a sales tax holiday, the weekend-long dose of tax relief that lawmakers and retailers have celebrated in past years.
But in a nod to the sector, the Senate during its final formal session before September on Thursday appointed 13-member retail sector task force.
The panel’s formation comes as retailers decide whether to act on a proposal that Democratic legislative leaders are dreading. With an income surtax on high earners already penciled in for a November 2018 vote, retailers are mulling a sales tax cut initiative petition. If both proposals reach the ballot and are adopted, the two major tax proposals could roughly cancel each other out from a revenue standpoint.
Retailers have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to decide whether to submit sales tax reduction ballot question language to the attorney general’s office.
The task force is ordered to file its report by Jan. 1, 2018 on “challenges faced by local retailers in a changing economic environment increasingly dominated by large online sellers; closures of local retail establishments, affecting local economies and property tax bases; initiatives taken by local retailers to increase or maintain their market share; and actions by state and local governments to encourage purchasing from local retailers, consistent with other important policy objectives including adequate revenues.” – Michael P. Norton/SHNS

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