Tax revenue shrinks

Published 8:42 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Selma’s sales tax revenue once again fell short of last year’s numbers in the month of October.

In the past several months, sales tax revenue has steadily declined. Selma generated $711,554 in sales tax revenue in October — $51,154 less than October of last year. October’s sales tax revenue numbers are also the second lowest in the past 12 months. The declining numbers are not an anomaly, according to Ward 1 councilman Cecil Williamson.

“Sales tax really took a significant decline this past fiscal year and it seems to be less each month,” Williamson said. “I think the problem is that businesses are not accurately reporting their taxes. Less sales tax revenue makes the difference between being able to provide adequate services or operating on a shoestring budget.”

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The problem could resolve itself in the coming months, according to council president Corey Bowie. The city council previously voted to switch from Revenue Discovery Systems — Selma’s current tax collection agency — to the Alabama Department of Revenue.

Bowie said the switch was due, in part, to the department’s enforcement power.

“The main reason is that we feel the state has more enforcement power in collecting taxes,” he said.

Williamson believes the switch will lead to increased sales tax revenue.

“Businesses are usually more inclined to pay their state tax,” he said. “The state can look and see if they also reported their city tax. With RDS, people could pay state tax and RDS had no way of knowing that because they are a private business.”

The Alabama Department of Revenue officially took over tax collection on Nov. 1, but the results of its first month won’t be available until late December because the November sales tax reporting deadline is December 20th.

But for a brief period, the city will have two tax collection agencies.

RDS received a three-month extension to recover uncollected sales tax.

Mayor George Evans said he proposed the extension at an October council meeting because RDS has begun work on recovering the money.

“They have already identified this money prior to the city switching over,” Evans said during the meeting. “There is still $500,000 out there in underreported sales tax that is owed to us. Can you imagine what half a million would do for our city?”

If RDS is unsuccessful in collecting the tax, the city may be out of luck, Williamson said.

“I don’t think that the department of revenue can go back and collect for the past,” he said. “It looks to me like the sales tax would just be gone.”