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Retailer group wants 5 percent sales tax ballot question


State House News Service
Thursday, September 21, 2017

BOSTON — Retailers plan to gather signatures and move forward with a potential 2018 ballot question reducing the sales tax to 5 percent and instituting an annual sales tax holiday, the News Service has confirmed.

If the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM) follows through on its initiative petition, voters next year could have two tax questions on the ballot — one to hike taxes on incomes over $1 million and another to reduce the sales tax from its current rate of 6.25 percent.

RAM filed four proposed ballot questions with the attorney general’s office in August, and only recently decided to put its organization behind one. The alternatives that RAM decided to abandon included combinations of dropping the sales tax to 4.5 percent and including or excluding the sales tax holiday.

The first test for retailers and tax relief proponents will be whether they can amass 64,750 certified signatures from voters around the state by Nov. 22. The group plans to start collecting signatures this weekend.

“Reducing the state sales tax to 5 percent, coupled with an annual sales tax holiday weekend, will provide much needed relief to small businesses while significantly benefiting seniors and working poor who pay a disproportionate amount of their income in sales tax,” RAM President Jon Hurst said in a statement to the News Service.

Competing against tax-free sellers in New Hampshire and online, store owners have had to budget in a minimum wage increase, rising health care costs and some of the highest energy costs in the continental United States.

Sales tax revenues are a major component of the state's $39.4 billion fiscal 2018 budget. In fiscal 2017, the state collected $6.21 billion in sale taxes.