Research Reports

Local Sales Tax Collections Decline by 10 Percent in 2020, With Major Shifts in Consumer Spending

New York State local sales tax collections declined by 10 percent (or $1.8 billion) in 2020 compared to 2019, due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic. New York City, which was hit earliest and hardest by the pandemic, saw its collections decline by 18.7 percent in 2020, while counties outside the City saw an average drop of only -0.9 percent.

Municipalities: Fiscal Year 2019 Results; Fiscal Year 2020 Risks

This snapshot highlights the results for counties, cities, towns and villages that reported for local fiscal years ending (FYE) 2019. These scores, therefore, provide a baseline for local government fiscal preparedness in the period just prior to the pandemic. To provide additional context for these results, this snapshot also examines some of the biggest local government fiscal stress risk factors arising from the COVID-19 crisis.

August Local Sales Tax Collections Grew By Over 15 percent

Local government sales tax collections in August increased by 15.5 percent, or $204 million, over the same month in 2020, making it the fifth month in a row that collections exceeded 2020 results. The double-digit growth in local sales taxes reflects the fact that collections during August of 2020 were fairly weak as sales activity was recovering in certain parts of the state from the early effects of the pandemic. Still, August 2021 total collections were strong even by comparison with pre-pandemic levels, growing 6.5 percent, or nearly $93 million, over August of 2019.

Statewide Local Sales Tax Collections For July Up Over 21 percent

Local government sales taxes in July totaled close to $1.6 billion, up $276 million or 21.2 percent over the same month in 2020, marking the fourth consecutive month that collections have surged. July’s significant growth in local sales taxes reflects the fact that collections in the same month of 2020 were quite weak, with sales activity that was still recovering from the first wave of the pandemic. However, collections were also strong even by comparison with pre-pandemic 2019, growing 11.2 percent, or $159 million, over July of that year.

2nd Quarter 2021 Local Sales Taxes Surge 49.2 Percent; Strong Even Compared to Pre-Pandemic Period

Local sales tax collections in New York State grew by 49.2 percent, or just over $1.6 billion, in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year, a dramatic increase from last year’s weak collections during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, when compared to pre-pandemic levels, the second quarter of 2021 was still strong – up 8.7 percent, or $396 million, above the same period in 2019.

Statewide Local Sales Tax Collections for May Up Nearly 58 Percent From 2020

Local sales tax collections in May increased by 57.8 percent, or $530 million, over the same month in 2020, the highest one month increase in recent history. The extraordinary growth in monthly local sales taxes was largely due to the fact that May 2020 collections were especially low, having declined by 32.3 percent during the worst part of the first wave of the pandemic. Nevertheless, collections last month were relatively strong even compared to pre-pandemic numbers, rising 6.9 percent, or $93 million, over May 2019.

Statewide Local Sales Tax Collections in April Increase by Nearly 46 Percent

Local government sales taxes in April grew by 45.7 percent (or $464 million) over the same month in 2020. Much of this spike in monthly collections over last year reflects the extremely weak collections experienced by every region of the state in April 2020, when many businesses were closed. Even so, statewide local sales taxes last month appear quite strong: when comparing April 2021 to April 2019 (before the pandemic), they increased significantly, up 10.2 percent or $137 million.

First Quarter 2021 Local Sales Taxes Down 3.9 Percent; New York City Declines While the Rest of the State Grows

Local government sales tax collections declined by 3.9 percent, or $173 million, in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year. This is the fourth quarter in a row that collections have dropped year-over-year. However, it is an improvement over the past three quarters. Collections in every region of the State outside of New York City increased over the first quarter of 2020, ranging from 2.4 percent in the Southern Tier to 9.8 percent in the North Country.

Statewide Local Sales Tax Collections in February Decreased by 4.2 Percent

Overall sales tax collections for local governments decreased by 4.2 percent, or $55 million, in February compared to the same month in 2020. Revenues continued to shrink, but the decline last month was less steep than in January (5.9 percent) and December (8.4 percent), and the double-digit drops in collections during the earlier months of the pandemic. All regions in the state experienced collection declines for February, ranging from 0.4 percent in the Mohawk Valley to 11.4 percent in the Finger Lakes.