State tax revenue comes in below estimate

CHARLESTON — Citing the slowdown of construction activities during the winter season, March tax revenue collections came in 1.2 percent below the updated projections, the second month for lower-than-expected collections since fiscal 2019 started in July.

According to the governor’s office, March collections for the general revenue fund came in at $333 million, or $3.8 million less than what was projected. Revenue collections also came in below estimates in January.

“Overall, our numbers continue to be great across the board and are far better than anything we could have even dreamed of back before I walked through the door,” Justice said in a statement Tuesday.

The Department of Revenue revised the monthly general revenue fund estimates in March. The original estimate for March was $338 million, but the updated estimate placed March tax collections at $337 million.

“We continue to raise the bar in West Virginia, and so we’ve had to raise our estimates, but the reality is that every month we’re doing better than we did in that month a year ago and at the end of the day I’m confident we’re going to be incredibly happy with this year as a whole,” Justice said.

March marks the end of the third quarter of the fiscal year, which ends in June. According to revenue officials, cumulative tax collections for the last nine months are $191.3 million ahead of estimates even with the two low-performing months. March 2019 collections are also 1.6 percent ahead of March 2018 collections.

Year-to-date, tax collections are $23.3 million above estimates and 11.2 percent ahead if prior year’s collections, bringing in 3.29 billion.

Personal income tax collections came in $13.1 million below March estimates at $123.2 million.

Revenue officials blame the government shutdown that started Dec. 22 and ended Jan. 25 causing tax season to get off to a slow start. They also cite a $7.8 million decline in non-resident withholding taxes.

Consumer sales tax revenue came in at $2.4 million below March estimates, but was still 4 percent head of collections in March 2018. Revenue officials cite a seasonal drop-off in outdoor construction activities for the drop in revenue.

The hero once again was the state severance tax collections for coal and natural gas. March severance tax collections were $7.5 million above estimates at $39.8 million and 19.9 percent ahead of the prior year collections. Severance tax collections remain $7.9 million above year-to-date estimates. Increased coal exports and stable coal prices were cited as the reason.

The insurance premium tax came in $3.1 million above March estimates as did the Business and Occupation tax, which came in $2 million above estimates. Tax collections on tobacco products came in $1.8 million below estimates.

Not included in the governor’s press release was State Road Fund collections, which came in 8 percent above March estimates. The fund brought in $87.6 million in March, which was $6.3 million above estimates. Vehicle registration fees came in $2.4 million above estimates, while taxes from vehicle sales came in $2.8 million below estimates. Fuel tax revenue came in $9.8 million above estimates.

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