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Oklahoma tax collections rise in July but may decrease in August

by Randy Ellis Modified: August 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: August 17, 2014

Release of the state’s report on July general revenue fund receipts was a good news-bad news story for state agencies and Oklahoma taxpayers.

The good news — and it was extremely good news — was that total general revenue fund collections for the first month of the new fiscal year exceeded July collections from a year ago by 14.9 percent.

The $471 million in July general revenue fund collections was 17.3 percent above the official estimate. If the trend continues, state agency budgets will be fully funded this fiscal year and revenue increases will be on track to trigger a cut in the state’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent in 2016.

The bad news is state finance officials are expecting a drop in August collections.

“In August, we may see some of that wiped out the other way,” said John Estus, spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services. “There are a lot of amended personal tax returns and amended corporate returns sitting at the Tax Commission that we are aware of that will perhaps cause the collections to go the opposite direction in August. By the time September comes around, it could be a wash.”

Just how badly state prognosticators sometimes miss the target with their monthly revenue projections was clearly illustrated by the July report.

Individual income tax collections of $206.8 million were 56.9 percent above the estimate — a windfall that boosted state coffers by $75 million over the amount expected.

The forecasters missed their marks by large amounts in the opposite direction on corporate income tax and gross production tax collections.

The state collected $8.3 million in corporate income taxes in July. That was about $1.1 million more than the amount collected last July, but 49.4 percent short of the state estimate.

July gross production tax collections of $11.4 million were $336,000 less than last July and $5.5 million, or 32.6 percent, below projections.

How can the predictions of state finance officials be so far off?

“I don’t know in particular what happened, but I can tell you that if you have a small handful of very wealthy individuals who amend their returns and a small handful of very large businesses that amend their returns, your monthly numbers can be skewed by double digits very easily,” Estus said.

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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