General Fund Collections Are Not Meeting Expectations

Sep 5, 2012

The Pennsylvania Revenue Department thought it would collect $32.3 million more for the General Fund in taxes and investments than what it did in August.  That makes estimates for the first two months of the 2012-13 fiscal year nearly 1% below projections.

Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser said even though projections for this year are off so far, the state is collecting more than what it did last year for the same period.

"Even though we are below estimate by almost 1%, we are in fact 3.2% higher in revenues than this time last year," Meuser said.

Sales tax revenue totaled $722.8 million for August, which is $35.6 million lower than anticipated.  Meuser said sales tax can be an indicator of consumer confidence and employment, and hopes the next  months will produce numbers closer to projections.

"We still are hopeful, but realistically hopeful that we will get back on track, that we will be very close to estimate in September and into October," Meuser said.  "It is notable that sales taxes this year were down versus estimate."

Meuser said the "e-commerce" sales tax on items purchased online and shipped to the commonwealth, which was implemented September 1st won't make the sales tax revenues collected closer to projections.

"It's already calculated in the estimates for October," Meuser said.  "So certainly if the revenues come in higher than the estimate then it has more of a positive impact, but it's already figured in the numbers."

The most significant category that came in lower than projections for July and August was non-tax revenues including investments.  It was estimated August would bring in $30 million  but only $23 million was collected.   For the first two months of fiscal 2012, the non-tax category has generated $55.2 million.  That's $7 million or 11.2% below anticipated numbers.   Meuser explained some factors that contributed to the dismal turnout.

"Investments made by the state came in a little bit lower, escheats, which is the transfer of certain foreclosures, and other property transfers came in a little bit low," Meuser said.  "The cigarette tax, malt beverage [tax] did come in a little bit under estimate as well."

Revenues that came in higher than expected included personal income tax, which brought in $13.7 million above projections for the month.  Corporation tax was also above expectations at $59.1 million collected in August and $169 million for the 2012 fiscal year.