Voter's Views on Sales Tax Provide Food for Thought

By Jon Hurst, President 

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts recently conducted public opinion polls by Princeton Research Associates to determine the views of voters and consumers in the Commonwealth about the state sales tax and about the fairness alternatives.  The results are interesting.  Following are the highlights.

  • 95% of the voters view the retail sector as important for our economy. 
  • 52% opposed sales tax collections on Internet sales, a view which would seem to be in conflict with the first bullet.
  • Yet, a wide shift occurred when asked if they would support the sales tax on Internet sales IF it boosted local, small retailers, was coupled with a reduction in the tax rate from 6.25 to 5% or lower, and didn’t mean an overall loss in state revenues--61% then supported online tax collections.
  • 60% also supporting a broadening of the sales tax to items like soda, if it was coupled with a sales tax rate cut.
  • After having no Sales Tax Holiday in 2016, a whopping 79% said they strongly supported authorizing a MA Sales Tax Holiday.
  • 56% supported applying the sales tax to nonprofits like universities and foundations if accompanied by a tax cut for consumers.
  •  Given the upcoming “Millionaires Tax” vote, a very strong 79% said they supported a reduction in the sales tax to about 4%-4.5% to make the tax system fairer and to support local retailers.
  • Given that nationally 18% of all holiday gift purchases this past year were made online—and many of those internet sellers do not collect the sales tax—83% said it was important to lower the 6.25% sales tax to help local retail shops.
  • 78% of the respondents said it was important to provide some kind of sales tax relief soon.
  • And finally 66% of the voters believe the proper sales tax range for Massachusetts would be in the 4% to 4.5% range.

Food for thought for our industry, our voters, consumers, and for Beacon Hill. 

The poll numbers are from two surveys; one conducted 11/11-14/16, N=495, +/- 4.4%; and the other 3/14-19/17, N=550, +/-4.4%

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