Latest sales tax numbers mixed

Phil Castle

Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

After a year in which sales tax collections lagged, Jodi Romero expects the trend to go the other way in 2017.

“I’m fairly comfortable in saying we’re moving in the right direction,” said Romero, financial operations director for the City of Grand Junction.

The new year got off to a better start for the city with an eight-tenths of a percent increase in sales tax collections in January compared to the same month last year. With declines in use tax collections and the city’s share of Mesa County sales tax collections, however, overall revenue held steady.

Meanwhile, the county reported a 1.4 percent decrease in sales tax collections and 12.4 percent decrease in use tax collections in January compared to the same month last year.

January collections represent December sales and a good portion of the holiday shopping season. January is an especially important month because it usually constitutes the single largest month for collections for local governments.

The city reported collecting a total of $5.2 million in sales and use tax collections in January. More than $4.5 million in sales tax collections represented an increase of almost $36,000 and eight-tenths of a percent over the same month last year. That increase nearly offset a 5.8 percent drop in city use tax collections and 5.3 percent decline in county sales taxes the city receives.

Romero said city sales tax collections were up for most categories. The increase also could reflect the increased remittance of sales taxes collected for online purchases, she said.

Amazon, for example, has begun remitting sales taxes on purchases in Colorado with the construction of sorting and fulfillment facilities in Aurora, she said. State law requires companies to collect sales taxes on online purchases if they also have a physical presence in the form of a store or some other operation.

For all of 2016, the city reported collecting a total of almost $49.5 million in sales and use tax collections. That’s nearly $1.16 million less than what was collected in 2015. Sales tax collections dropped 1 percent, while the more volatile use tax collections decreased 29.8 percent.

City sales tax collections are projected to remain flat in 2017, although Romero hopes that forecast turns out to be conservative.

Mesa County reported collecting a total of  $3.8 million in sales and use taxes in January. That’s a decrease of nearly $81,000 or 2.1 percent from what was collected during the same month last year. Sales tax collections retreated 1.4 percent, while use tax collections dropped 12.4 percent.

For all of 2016, Mesa County reported collecting a total of more than $30.7 million in sales and use taxes, down $1.4 million and 4.5 percent from 2015. County tax collections are projected to rise a half of a percent in 2017.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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