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State tax collections struggled in August

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State tax collections continued to struggle in August, coming in $14.4 million below estimates, and nearly 5 percent below August 2012 revenues, deputy Revenue secretary Mark Muchow said Tuesday.

Overall, the state took in $273 million in tax revenue in August, below estimates of $287.4 million.

For the first two months of the 2013-14 budget year, sales tax collections are running about $200,000 ahead of estimates, at $203.2 million.

"That's encouraging, because we have the grocery tax elimination in place," Muchow said.

West Virginia removed the final 1 percent sales tax on groceries on July 1, reducing sales tax collections by about $2.5 million a month.

Severance tax collections of $34.3 million were $2.8 million below estimates, and down 4.6 percent from August 2012.

However, severance taxes for the first two months of fiscal 2014 are running about $4 million ahead of estimates.

"I suspect most of it's driven by natural gas production, and a little better pricing than a year ago," Muchow said.

Personal income tax collections continued to lag, in part as taxpayers continue to claim tax credits of up to $7,500 on alternative-fuel vehicles. A flurry of last-minute purchases of flex-fuel vehicles eligible for the credits before the tax break was repealed on April 14 is expected to cost the state a total of $100 million in lost tax revenue.

August personal income tax collections of $114.6 million were $4.4 million below estimates, Muchow said.

Income tax refunds for the month totaled $8.4 million, compared to $4.5 million in August 2012.

Muchow said very sluggish growth in wages and employment is keeping income tax collections below projections.

"Employment growth figures in West Virginia are very, very sluggish, as they are in the rest of the country," he said.

Still, August collections were up about $200,000 over July.

"August in some respects was a better month than July," Muchow said.

Consumer sales tax collections for August of $97.5 million were about $560,000 below estimates, but 1.2 percent ahead of August 2012, he said.

Coal sales are also showing signs of stabilizing after a steep downturn in production, he said.

Corporate income tax payments of $2.8 million were $400,000 ahead of estimates, but Muchow noted that July and August are slow months for corporate tax collections, with September being the next big month when payments are due.

Year-to-date, overall tax collections of $570.2 million are running $32.2 million below estimates, and about 3.1 percent below the same point in the past budget year.

"It's not the greatest start for the budget year," Muchow said.

Meanwhile, tobacco tax collections of $9.3 million were $800,000 below estimates, and down nearly 16 percent from August 2012.

Year-to-date, tobacco tax collections are running 2.5 percent below estimates, ahead of a projected 1 percent annual decrease in consumption.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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