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Tax collections held steady in March. That likely won’t last

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic didn’t surface in March figures

The Massachusetts State House.
The Massachusetts State House.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

State tax revenues haven’t cratered — at least, not yet.

The state Department of Revenue announced Friday it collected $2.66 billion in taxes in March, beating its monthly projections by 3 percent and essentially keeping pace with collections from March 2019.

But the relatively good fiscal news is likely not reflective of the current economic reality, analysts say, as the coronavirus pandemic sinks its teeth deeper into an economy where record numbers of people are filing unemployment claims and businesses have shuttered.

State officials attributed the cheery-looking figures largely to corporate tax collections, which came in $106 million above expectations.

But with the sales, meals, and room taxes likely to tank and the state pushing back the deadline to file state taxes from April 15 to July 15, darker times are likely ahead for the state budget.

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“This is the calm before the storm,” said Michael Goodman, an economist at UMass Dartmouth. “I think the dramatic changing in the labor market, the hundreds of thousands of unemployment claims we’ve experienced in the last few weeks, and the [continued] home confinement, it’s going to take its toll in April. . . . A lot of the largest impacts on the economy have been occurring in the last 10 days or two weeks."

Geoffrey Snyder, the state’s revenue commissioner, acknowledged in a statement Friday that “future revenue collections are likely to be impacted by the COVID-19 disruptions.”




Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout