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Category Archives: Sales Tax


The June distribution for the 1% local sales tax indicated that April taxable sales increased 8.6% compared to a year earlier.  The Tax Commission distributed $41.61 million for June’s 1% local sales tax compared to $38.32 million last June.

This distribution surprised us on the upside, because lately the growth in the two distributions after the big, quarter-end distribution (e.g., February and May) has been muted. But June is the distribution month when the Tax Commission “trues-up”  the hold-harmless cities to last-year’s distribution.  This June they added about $1.98 million, compared to $2.71 million last year.  This effectively bumped up the distributions to non-hold-harmless cities by about $720,000 (or 2%). This may have bumped up non-hold-harmless cities, but probably didn’t effect the overall 8.6% gain.  So, it is possible that extraordinary inclusions of May transactions bolstered the June distribution; this would cut into next month’s distribution.

June 15 Dist

Nationwide, real retail and food services sales increased 1.6% in April and 2.6% in May 2015.

In Utah, the 8.6% gain for June’s distribution brought up the 3-month average gain from 2% last month to 4.3%.  Fiscal year 2015 year-to-date growth statewide is now up to 5.7% (from 5.4% last month) based on the first 10 months.

In Salt Lake County, double-digit gains occurred in six of the nine cities we tally.  Holladay’s distribution rose 23.3% and Draper’s distribution was up 20.4% compared to a year earlier.  Salt Lake City’s distribution of $3.99 million was up 14.4%, bringing their year-to-date gain up to 6.3%.  The loss of several auto dealers to other cities flattened Sandy’s distribution.

In other counties, double-digit gains were the rule, either indicating very strong sales or the effect from the lower “true-up” to hold-harmless cities this year.

DOUG MACDONALDMay 2015 1%The Tax Commission distributed $48.98 million in the last week of May, the second highest distribution in the past nine years. The May distribution represents March taxable retail sales, services and business purchases, but also includes returns from first quarter filers. The $48.98 million was a welcome 4.4% increase from last May’s $46.92 million. The last two months’ percentage change was only 1.7% and -0.8%. We are now hearing that the prior two months included large refund amounts that may continue to affect sales in the coming months.

In the coming months, expect continued gains of 4% to 6%, due to continuing job growth, high consumer sentiment, lower gas prices and expanding new home building. Any further large refunds may mute those gains, however. It also appears that the third month of the quarter has been seasonally stronger than the first two months, at least for the past three quarters.

May 2015 Dist

In Salt Lake County, South Jordan, Draper, West Valley and the two Jordans saw gains greater than 5%. Salt Lake City saw a 3.5% increase, but is still up 5.5% fiscal year-to-date (last nine months).

In Utah County, Lehi’s sales increased 25.5% and its distribution rose almost 15%. Orem’s distribution was up 5.5%, but Provo was flat compared to a year earlier.

Most of Davis County’s large cities did at least as well as the state average. Bountiful’s distribution was up almost 9% and Layton’s was up 5.6%. Farmington’s sales were up 21% and its distribution was up almost 13%.

Ogden and Roy distributions were up close to the state average.

The resort cities of Moab and Park City both saw sales gains approaching 20%.

City Dist April 2015DOUG MACDONALD

April’s local 1% distribution came up on the Tax Commission website last week and at $35.98M was off 0.8% compared to a year earlier.  Even though the last two distributions were flat compared to last year, the 13.0% gain in February’s distribution pushed up the 3-month average to a 5.5% gain. For the fiscal year, the statewide distributions are up 5.6% compared to fiscal year 2014.

Nationwide, retailers sales were up 1.7% in February, with fairly strong auto sales.

Salt Lake City’s computed sales were up 10.1% in the April distribution, representing largely sales from February. Its distribution was up 4.7% for the month and up 5.8% for the fiscal year.  Sandy’s distribution was up 5.3%, implying a direct sales increase of 11.4% for February.  The distribution in Draper was up 16.4% in April, implying a 33.6% gain in sales.

In Davis County, Centerville’s distribution 7.6% gain led other cities. Layton and Farmington trailed Centerville with 3% gains.

In Weber County, Ogden and Roy’s distributions fell about 1%.

Lehi’s sales rose 17.6% in April, similar to Draper’s 16% gain, indicating strong growth is clustering there due to an influx of new businesses and homes.

Sales in St. George, Tooele and Moab rose between 5% and 8%.

Tax Rev


The Tax Commission’s 9-month revenue report came out yesterday described a picture of slightly weakening, but overall still strong revenues.

State sales tax (cumulative, fiscal year 2015) growth slipped from 4.5% to 3.8% for the first 9 months of FY2015. For the month, state sales taxes fell 2.7%.  But we note that the sales tax earmark for the Transportation Fund’s” 30% Sales Growth Diversion” rose 85.1%, $12.4 million this month, to $96.4 million during the first 9 months (compared to $84 million last year).

Indicating continued strong growth in Utah wages, the State’s withholding tax is up 6.2% during the first 9 months of FY2015.  Overall, individual income taxes are up 7.6% this year compared to the 5% forecast made in February.  Corporate income taxes are up 22.5% in the first 9 months, compared to the February forecast of 18.8%.

Motor fuel taxes are up nearly 3% in the first 9 months, indicating increased driving due to lower gasoline prices.  This should help our B&C distributions.

Finally, the local 1% sales tax was up 2.7% for the month and 4.0% for the first 9 months of the State’s fiscal year at $389.4 million (this is found in a detailed report not below).  The County 0.25% tax is up 3.6% for the first 9 months of FY2015.


The Tax Commission distributed $37.73 million to Utah’s cities, towns and counties for the 1% local sales tax last week, up 1.7% from last year’s $37.11 million.  These monies represent mainly sales from January 2015 large, monthly filers.  At first glance, the 1.7% increase appears low, but coupled with the 13% gain from last month’s 4th quarter sales and the 3.7% gain in the January distribution, the last three months’ gain equals a healthy 6.8%. It is also possible that some of January’s transactions were counted last month, which lowered January’s gain.

3-15 Dist

Retail sales across the U.S. rose 3.2% in January, and new light-vehicle sales rose from 15.2 million last year to 16.6 million in January 2015, up 9.2%.

What’s interesting with this month’s distribution is the fact that while Salt Lake and Weber counties grew along with the statewide growth of 1.7%, Davis County’s distribution rose 5.1%, implying an 8.5% sales gain and Utah County’s distribution rose 3.9%, implying a 6.2% sales increase. 

In Salt Lake County, double-digit gains in Draper and South Jordan were almost offset by small declines in Sandy, Holladay and Midvale.  Salt Lake City’s distribution was up only 0.5%, but its 3-month average gain was still up 6%.

Davis County gains ranged from 2.3% in Kaysville to 16.3% in Farmington, while its largest cities, Bountiful and Layton, scored 5.1% and 4.2% increases, respectively.

March 2015 Dist


The Tax Commission distributed $55.79 million to cities and counties for the 1% local sales tax in February 2015, a 13.0% increase over last February’s $49.38 million (Figure 1).  These monies are primarily from sales in December 2014, but also include monies from fourth quarter and calendar year returns.  The 13% gain in the February distribution pushes up the year-to-date gain for the first half of FY2014-15 to 7.1%.

Figure 1


In contrast, nationwide retailers’ sales rose 4.3% in December 2014 to $455.7 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census through FRB St. Louis (Figure 2).


Figure 2



Our models estimated a baseline forecast for CY2015 taxable sales at 6.8% growth (made last October). Our pessimistic scenario indicated 2.7% growth for CY2015.

Five out of the eight largest cities in Salt Lake County distributions rose in double-digits, including Salt Lake City (14.1%), West Valley (16.6%), Midvale (15%), Draper (24.2%) and South Jordan (17.5%).  Draper’s distribution reached $1 million for the first time.

All of the large cities we survey in Utah and Weber counties’ distributions rose more than 12%.  Lehi reached the million dollar mark too for the first time.

In Davis county, Layton’s distribution rose 12.2% and Farmington’s rose almost 21%.

Park City’s distribution rose almost 25%, suggesting sales rose nearly 37%.

Dist Feb Graph

Figure 3


Figure 1. Select 1% Sales Tax Distributions

Figure 2. U.S. Retail Sales (Federal Reserve Bank, St. Louis)

Figure 3. Utah 1% Sales Tax Distributions


1% December

Following four months of 2% to 4% growth, November and now December’s 1% sales tax distribution escalated to 7.4% and 8.2%, respectively.  In December, the Tax Commission distributed $39.88 million compared to $36.9 million in 2013.  December’s 8.2% growth, representing sales from October, brings year-to-date growth for Utah’s cities up to 6.1% during the first four months of fiscal year 2014-15.

Graph December

Graph December 2

In the U.S. sales from retailers rose 4.3% in November.  Utah’s improving performance may be pushed by improving jobs and in some sectors better wage growth.  It also may be attributed to the poor performance in 2013 as the federal government began to cut back on new contracts and laying off workers.  In addition, copper mining has returned to pre-landslide production levels.  In north Utah county, software companies are clearly expanding investment and commercial construction.  This is partially reflected in Lehi’s computed sales increase of 20.7% for October.

Have a Happy New Year – this should last for a few more months,


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