COVID-19 restrictions cause Utah’s gas tax revenue to plummet

Gasoline Tax 01

Some early state tax data showing the impact of the coronavirus’ on revenues is bad. And it will only get worse.

The State Tax Commission has issued a report on sales and gasoline tax take for March — just as the business shutdown was taking effect toward the end of the month.

It shows that the state per-gallon gas tax receipts are down 13 percent. The reports are here:

While the sales tax receipts are down 0.4 percent.

Both taxes had been growing, although not by as much as the state personal and corporate income taxes.

The real impacts of the coronavirus, however, really won’t be seen until the April tax receipts come in, and that won’t be known until around mid-June.

Utah GOP legislative leaders know the state’s current budget, which ends June 30, and the fiscal 2021 budget, which starts July 1, will be hard hit — perhaps upwards of $2 billion, or 10 percent of next year’s current budget.

They just don’t know how bad. reported last week that leaders were thinking about calling another special legislative session this week.

But they’ve put that off now, wanting to wait until they get some better tax collection data.

Well, they got some now and it isn’t good.

While the gasoline tax is down 13 percent, the aviation fuel sales are down 26 percent — because airline flights are way down at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

Airport officials say they still plan to open parts of the new airport in September — because bonds have already been sold and that money is in.

But if landing and other fees don’t start coming back to something like normal soon, then work on future building could slow.

Some of the other March taxes that are down:

  • Oil, gas and mining, down 16 percent.
  • Auto parts, down 20 percent.
  • Home furnishings, down 11 percent.
  • Health and personal care sales, down 9.9 percent.
  • Retail clothing, down 44 percent.
  • Sporting goods, down 7.2 percent.
  • Arts and entertainment, down 51 percent — all those film and live performances shutdown.
  • Accommodations (hotels and motels) down 47 percent.
  • Food services and drinking (restaurants and bars), down 26 percent.

Not everything is down, non-store retail (internet) sales are up 76 percent, for example.

But all the sales tax categories that are up don’t make up for the ones that are down.

For example, February 2020 sales taxes were up by 13.4 percent from a year before, while March’s sales tax take was down 0.4 percent.

And April — when the “stay at home” really kicked in — will almost certainly be much worse, tax officials said.