On Tuesday, February 15, the state legislature in Montana will consider a bill filed by State Senator Ken Toole entitled the “Progressive Gross Receipts Tax For Big Box Stores.” The measure levies a tax on retailers with total gross receipts of more than $20 million a year, and whose compensation package for entry-level workers is less than $22,000, and which have a workforce of which 25% work less than 40 hours per week. The tax rate imposed would be 1% for sales between $20 and $30 million, 1.5% for sales in excess of $30 million up to $40 million, and a 2% tax on sales in excess of $40 million. Legislative analysts estimate that Senate Bill (SB) 272 would raise $15.15 million from sales made in 2005, and $16.4 million from sales in 2006. The funds collected would be deposited in the state’s General Fund. Under the bill, “gross receipts” are defined as “all receipts from retail sales from each taxable establishment within the state, whether in the form of money, credits, or other valuable consideration, received as a result of engaging in or conducting retail sales, without deduction on account of the cost of the property sold, the cost of the materials used, labor or service costs, interest paid, taxes, losses, or any other expense. A taxable establishment may deduct the cost of employer contributions for retirement benefits and health insurance for employees from gross receipts.” Senator Toole says that big box retailers cost the state more than smaller outlets, including local infrastructure costs, and health care costs for superstore employees. “If Wal-Mart and other big box stores don’t want to pay the tax, all they have to do is pay their workers a little more. They can afford it and we should demand it,” Senator Toole told the media. SB 272 is a refile of legislation that was narrowly defeated last year. The bill has continued to draw opposition from retail associations in Montana that represent the interests of the big box stores.
At one point in the late 1930s, there were nearly three dozen states that had imposed a state tax on chain stores. For a copy of SB. 272, contact [email protected] or http://data.opi.state.mt.us/bills/2005/billhtml/SB0272.htm#About