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Having taken in $1.992 billion in tax revenue in August, state tax collections are running $124 million — or more than 3 percent — ahead of their pace one year ago, the Department of Revenue reported Friday, a potentially promising sign given predictions that receipts could collapse this fiscal year.

Of the revenue collected last month, all but $13 million will go toward fiscal year 2021. Counting the $1.979 billion that will be recorded in FY 2021, August collections were $7 million less than the August 2019 collections, DOR said. But through two months of FY 2021, DOR said it has collected roughly $4.135 billion, which is $124 million —or 3.1 percent — more than it had collected during the same period of fiscal 2020.


“Revenues for the month of August were mainly driven by withholding, part of which is attributed to withholding on unemployment insurance benefits, as well as the regular sales tax. These increases were offset by decreases in non-withheld income tax, meals tax, corporate and business taxes, and ‘All Other’ tax,” Revenue Commissioner Geoffrey Snyder said.

“August year-to-date total collections were also impacted by corporate and business tax payments attributable to returns due in April, following the waiver of late filing and payment penalties until July 15 for such returns. DOR will continue to monitor revenue collections closely,” Snyder added

State officials, citing estimates provided while the pandemic has unfolded, have estimated that fiscal 2021 tax collections could fall anywhere from $2 billion to $8 billion below fiscal 2020 levels.

It is unclear how August’s actual collections compare to the expectations of state budget managers in the administration and Legislature. After a December hearing, administration and legislative officials agreed to a projection of $31.15 billion in fiscal 2021 tax revenue, but that outlook has not been officially revised and DOR has not shared its benchmarks for monthly revenue collections.


DOR said that August is “one of the smaller months for revenue collection” because few individual or business taxpayers make significant estimated payments during the month.

August has typically provided about 6.7 percent of the state’s annual revenue, though DOR said this August “is different from previous years because of the impact of COVID-19 on tax bases and because revenues collected in this month include deferred payments on personal income tax and corporate excise payments, but exclude some regular sales, meals, and room occupancy taxes which are postponed to September.”

Friday’s revenue report from DOR should provide some clarity for Baker administration officials and legislative leaders involved in managing the state’s finances. It comes while Massachusetts has the worst unemployment rate in the nation (16.1 percent) for a second month running.