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FOR RAM, GRAND BARGAIN WAS ABOUT COST MITIGATION; FUTURE CHALLENGES NEED BROADER BUSINESS COMMUNITY SUPPORT

August 7, 2018 By Jon Hurst, President

The so-called “Grand Bargain” was signed into law in late June, and with its’ passage, three initiatives were kept off the November ballot.  One question was RAM’s rollback of the sales tax; and the other two were the $15 minimum wage and the paid family and medical leave payroll mandates. 

Make no mistake about it—without the existence of RAM’s sales tax initiative, the political pressure to remove these two costly labor mandates from the ballot would never have occurred.  The sales tax ballot initiative created the environment and the leverage to move closer to middle ground through compromise, rather than facing near certain voter passage of the labor initiatives.  Neither the Legislature nor the advocates pressing the labor mandates wanted to see a sales tax rollback with a $1 Billion price tag. 

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Changes Coming: Internet Sales Tax, $15, Paid Leave, Sunday Pay Repeal - Why We Took The Deal

June 22, 2018 BY JON HURST

This week, after 20 years of RAM work on sales tax fairness, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the future of our Main Streets by overturning the 1992 Quill decision on remote seller tax collection and remittance.  The South Dakota v Wayfair decision is important and welcomed as it will seek to end unequal application of state government imposed sales taxes.  Here in Massachusetts, we have always had the “New Hampshire problem,” but we also have a very tech savvy consumer, all too likely to send their vital discretionary dollars out of our local economy, to tax free sellers easily found right on their smart phones.  Thus for many years, local stores have had two strikes against them as tax free competitors have proliferated. 

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Beacon Hill Ballot Question Negotiations Underway With Tight Deadlines

May 29, 2018 by Jon Hurst, President

As RAM members know, your association has been working for almost a year to qualify a ballot initiative to roll back the sales tax to the 5% rate last seen in 2009. The measure also authorizes an annual two day sales tax holiday.
Sufficient signatures have been obtained to file with the Secretary of State by the July 3rd deadline to qualify the measure for the November ballot. But important negotiations are underway on Beacon Hill with various ballot measure sponsors in order to achieve middle ground and avoid the questions being placed before the voters. Besides the sales tax question, two payroll mandate proposals are being negotiated: the initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 over 4 years, and another initiative to create the most costly and extensive paid family and medical leave mandate in the country.
Complicating the negotiations are pending court cases on whether a constitutional amendment to increase the state income tax by 4% for those persons earning $1 Million or more will reach the November ballot. That case is before the MA Supreme Judicial Court. And before the US Supreme Court is the landmark case on whether states can mandate out of state internet sellers to collect the sales tax from local consumers (SD vs Wayfair).
Whether RAM moves forward with the ballot question on the sales tax rollback will be based on a combination of the outcome of those court cases; as well as on the ability of negotiations to produce more reasonable payroll mandate measures; while still giving taxpayers and local small businesses some sales tax relief to incent local consumer spending rather than driving purchases to NH or to Silicon Valley.
In case we do move forward with the sales tax ballot question, investments are being made for a campaign. The 10,792 required voter signatures for the second round of qualification have been obtained and will be held for potential filing. In addition, the Beacon Hill Institute has completed a study which confirms the economic benefits of lowering the sales tax—particularly for lower income consumers and our small businesses—as well as the fact that the tax loss is far less than what opponents might suggest due to increased local investment and jobs.
What links the high and avoidable sales tax and the proposed costly state labor mandates together is that both make it harder for local sellers to attract and retain local consumer spending due to the resulting and obvious higher customer prices.
In the age of the smart phone, we must all adapt. That includes our existing and proposed laws under the purview of our public policy leaders--who are all very quick to say they support small businesses and our Main Streets. To have laws which make local consumer prices far higher than our competitors, whether through a high sales tax or through unaffordable payroll mandates, is simply antiquated, unacceptable and counterproductive state economic policy. In the 21st Century, that fact is certainly crystal clear to anyone that has ever worked to make a payroll, and to attract consumers armed with unlimited spending options.
More than ever, the employer community, labor, and elected officials should all be working together to keep consumer spending--which is 70% of our economy—right here in Massachusetts. The next few weeks will be telling as to whether that cooperation can and will happen.

Sales Tax Initiative Leveraging Debate on How Government Affects Sales and Operating Costs on Main Street

October 24, 2107  By Jon Hurst, President

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts has been investing considerable time and resources this fall to qualify a ballot initiative to reduce the sales tax rate back to the 2009 level of 5.0%, as well as to authorize an annual August two day sales tax holiday.  Our membership polling clearly showed overwhelming support for the Association to take this rare step.  As an industry, we have not used the ballot initiative mechanism since 1994, when the voters approved a RAM sponsored measure to make Massachusetts the last state in the nation to allow stores to open on Sunday mornings, and on the three summer national holidays. 

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Moving Ahead on Sales Tax Ballot Question

Moving Ahead on Sales Tax Ballot Question

RAM’s membership overwhelmingly decided this week to move forward with an effort to put a sales tax ballot question before the voters that would reduce the state sales tax to 5% and mandate an annual sales tax holiday.

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Smart Tax Policy Protects the Home Team

April 28, 2017 by Jon Hurst

"Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the fellow behind the tree;” so said former Louisiana Senator Russell B. Long when describing “tax reform.”  This is a pretty clear description of the political process behind tax debates at the state and federal levels.  And this message is worth keeping in mind as we face major tax changes and debates over the next year on Capitol Hill concerning the Border Adjustment Tax; and on Beacon Hill and the state ballot on the so-called Millionaires Tax.

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RAM MEMBER SURVEY SHOWS BEACON HILL PENNYWISE, POUND FOOLISH ON SALES TAX HOLIDAY

OCT. 17, 2016 • BY JON HURST

The results of our member survey are in, and it is clear that the Beacon Hill leadership decision to forego the Sales Tax Holiday this past August resulted in dramatic drops in local sales and hours worked, with no clear benefit to the state in increased taxed collections. This is no surprise to anyone who understands consumers and the rapidly changing marketplace driven by mobile commerce. RAM firmly believes the real winners of not holding the Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday were the tax-free mobile commerce sellers.

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RAM PUTS SPOTLIGHT ON STORE CLOSURES WITH DARKSTOREFRONTSMA.COM

SEP. 26, 2016 • BY JON HURST
When corporate jobs leave the state for lower cost locales, it is front page news. If a hospital seeks to close a facility with empty beds, picket lines go up and politicians go on attack. If a hot new technology firm offers to locate a handful of jobs in exchange for tax breaks, the government welcome mat is rolled out.
Unfortunately, when a store or restaurant goes dark, little notice is taken except by the former customers and employees.

Consumers, elected officials, community leaders all talk about the importance of supporting small businesses and maintaining our historic, vibrant Main Streets. Yet what are they doing when it comes to really protecting, promoting and preserving local stores, and the delicate local shopping environments in which they operate? In a period of severe competitive pressures from mobile commerce growth, can we say that our government officials at the federal, state and local levels have really backed up their Main Street rhetoric with action? And are consumers really putting their money where it counts in order to keep those stores, restaurants and jobs in their towns?

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JUDGING THE 2015 - 2016 LEGISLATIVE SESSION - AN INCOMPLETE GRADE

AUG. 2, 2016 • BY JON HURST
As is often the case, the recently concluded formal session of the Legislature featured some wins—mostly in the defeat of costly employer measures—but some losses, primarily the continuation of existing discriminatory policies, which either result in lower sales, or higher costs for local sellers.

One important win was the passage of a measure to keep the state’s innovative Small Business Health Insurance Cooperatives operating and serving employers of 50 and under. RAM operates one of the existing three co-ops in the state, and thanks the Legislature--in particular the House of Representatives--for recognizing the costly, discriminatory and unfair application of health insurance rates under federal ACA rules. In the Economic Development bill passed Sunday, an important section sponsored by Representative Kate Hogan (D-Stow) allows for new financial incentives to use wellness and provider transparency tools through small business cooperatives. In reaction to double digit premium increases for small employers following the passage of “RomneyCare,” the Legislature in 2010 authorized group purchasing through non-profit cooperatives with upfront premium discounts. Yet, those savings are evaporating under preemptive ACA requirements on state rate setting. The ACA required phase out of state rating factors, means no upfront premium flexibility remains to award employees for using wellness programs, or to shop around for the low cost, high quality healthcare providers—common practices for large employers. The new state legislation moves upfront premium incentives to the end of the insurance contract period in the form of rebates, which remains legal under federal rules. The section also encourages the Baker Administration to seek an Innovation Waiver from the federal government under the ACA to seek more flexibility and fairness for Massachusetts small businesses and their employees. Without rate flexibility and consumer financial incentives, small business health insurance premiums are more accurately labeled healthcare taxes.

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NO SALES TAX HOLIDAY THIS SUMMER

JUL. 19, 2016 • BY JON HURST

Statement of Jon Hurst, President, RAM, on the loss of the Sales Tax Holiday:

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REAL ECONOMIC SOLUTIONS FOR REAL SMALL BUSINESSES

JUL. 7, 2016 • BY JON HURST

Ask any small business owner what they need to be successful, to compete with big companies, to thrive alongside the new “innovation economy,” and to compete with smartphone sellers and they will likely tell you two things – higher sales and lower costs. And that is what RAM is pushing for in order to really help Main Street under the Economic Development bill making its way through the Legislature.

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GUEST BLOG: TIPS FOR SALES TAX HOLIDAY WEEKEND

AUG. 12, 2015 • BY EDGAR DWOARSKY

TOP 10 TIPS TO TACKLE TAX-FREE WEEKEND

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WHY THE SALES TAX HOLIDAY MATTERS

AUG. 12, 2015 • BY JON HURST

During the last week of July, the Massachusetts Legislature overwhelmingly passed the 11th sales tax holiday held over the past 12 years. For that action, countless mom and pop retailers are very grateful. The holiday represents a state version of Small Business Saturday, in which our public policy leaders create real consumer incentives, and send a very strong message to our residents that it matters where they spend their dollars. And in these days of unlimited shopping options—including countless tax free sites right on our smartphones combined with price comparison applications--the state incentive is far more important today than it was in the first year, 2004.

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RAM BLOG: THE SALES TAX HOLIDAY -- GOOD POLITICS, BETTER ECONOMIC POLICY

JUL. 7, 2015 • BY JON HURST

As the calendar moves past Independence Day weekend and the state budget gets finalized, the question is now being asked by stores and consumers alike on whether Massachusetts will enjoy a weekend of tax-free shopping this August. If authorized, a 2015 Sales Tax Holiday would be the eleventh in the last twelve years. Stores and Main Streets would be packed with consumers enjoying both the 6.25% tax savings on items up to $2,500, along with the sale prices many stores would be offering.

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