Wyoming’s purse has been lightened of late, thanks to the contraction of the state’s fossil fuel and mineral extraction industries. As a result, the Joint Revenue Committee met in late September to discuss broadening the state sales tax and eliminating sales tax exemptions triggered by economic development incentives. Altogether, these changes could generate an additional $200 million in annual revenue for the state.
The committee considered eliminating nine sales tax exemptions, including one for computer equipment for data centers, one for railroad rolling stock, and one for machinery used in manufacturing. According to the Department of Revenue, these three alone cost the state $37 million in 2015. After much deliberation, the committee decided to preserve five exemptions and sponsor legislation to terminate the remaining four.
Exemptions for the following remain in place:
- Aircraft repairs in county airports
- Computer equipment for data centers
- Machinery used in manufacturing
- Railroad rolling stock (currently set to expire in 2021)
- Tractors and other machinery used in farming and ranching
The following four exemptions will be up for elimination during the 2017 legislative session:
- An exemption from certain lodging taxes for outdoor guides and outfitters
- A sales tax exemption for the lease or sale of planes by commercial aircraft owners
- A sales tax exemption for the transmission of messages from pagers sold or rented by certain businesses
- A sales tax exemption for equipment used to build coal gasification facilities (there are none in Wyoming)
Lawmakers in favor of keeping all exemptions noted that without them, “these companies wouldn’t be here in Wyoming.” Yet Senator Cale Case disagreed, insisting, “There must be a mix of reasons you’re in different states.” He pointed out that Wyoming has no corporate income tax and low property taxes.
Broadening sales tax
The committee rejected broadening sales tax to some services. Committee member Senator Dave Kinskey said he’s against raising taxes during a downturn. Instead, he favors cutting the budget and working to help businesses create more jobs.
The full Wyoming legislature will not convene until January, but the Joint Revenue Committee will meet again in November to consider additional revenue legislation.
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