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Robert Bliss, Director of Communication, Department of Revenue

April is normally one of the biggest tax collection months of the year, but not when the filing deadline is extended to May 11, as is the case this year due to flooding sustained in March.

Thus, the April revenue report released yesterday accurately reported that revenue for the month was below that of a year ago, and well below the monthly benchmark.

But not surprising given that an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 taxpayers have yet to file, and that of those, it's a good bet that many owe tax. All of which helps to explain why payments with income tax returns and bills came in $469 million less than benchmark.

On the other side of the revenue coin, and a source for a bit of optimism about revenues and an improving economy going forward, the tax types that were not affected by the filing delay all performed above expectations. Sales and use tax revenue was $38 million above benchmark; corporate and business tax revenue was $95 million above benchmark; and income tax withholding (the money your employer sends to the Commonwealth before you receive your paycheck) was $61 million better than benchmark.

Those are all signs of real time economic health, which is why the April results aren't all that cruel.

In fact, the regular sales tax (collection factoring out sales tax collections from meals and autos) was the strongest seen since August 2008, which was just before the revenue meltdown began.

And if you further boil down regular sales tax collection to just the retail sector, the month's retail sales tax collection, factoring out last year's sales tax increase from 5 percent to 6.25 percent, improved by 4.9 percent. It appears consumers are spending again.

Revenue from lifting the sales tax exemption on beer, wine and alcohol totaled $9.5 million for the month, $1.5 million above benchmark, while the year-to-date collection has just about reached the original FY10 estimate of $78.8 million. The volume of these products sold, as measured by the alcohol excise tax, is now up 3.1 percent for the eight months since the exemption was eliminated.

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