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DOR yesterday released the February revenue report showing a monthly collection of $1.011 billion that was a $79 million increase over February 2011 and $38 million over the monthly benchmark.

Year-to-date tax collections total $12.895 billion, up $315 million or 2.5 percent over a year ago, and  $58 million below the revised FY12 revenue estimate of $21.010 billion.

February is historically the smallest net tax collection month of the fiscal year as there are no quarterly estimated or final annual tax payments due. Refunds are also heavy in February.

February collections had previously exceeded $1 billion in 2008 ($1.147 billion) and in 2010 ($1.004 billion).

February's above benchmark performance was due to greater than forecast income tax withholding, income tax payments with returns and bills, sales and use tax collections, and business/corporate tax collections.

Sales and use tax collections, which are a good indicator of consumer spending and confidence, were up $29 million over February 2011, and were $11 million above the forecast or benchmark. For the year-to-date, sales and use tax collections of $3.397 billion are up $84 million or 2.5 percent over a year ago and $53 million over benchmark.

Keep in mind that a year ago the Commonwealth collected sales tax on alcohol for seven months of FY11, after which the repeal of the tax took effect. Stripping out the amount of sales tax on alcohol collected last fiscal year to make an apples-to-apples comparison reveals a baseline growth in sales tax of 4.8 percent for the current fiscal year.

February sales tax results (remember that sales tax is reported on the 20th of the month following, so the sales tax reported in February was actually collected in January) were even better in percentage terms.

On a baseline basis, sales tax collections increased 7.0 percent in February over February 2011. That could reflect the fact that the weather in January 2012 was unseasonably warm and conducive to shopping, while January 2011 was one snow storm after another. 

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