Bollinger, Perry, Scott counties put use tax on April ballot

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Voters in three Southeast Missouri counties will decide in April whether governments can charge a use tax that officials say is needed to make up for lost revenue after a 2012 ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court.

County commissioners in Bollinger, Perry and Scott counties all have approved placing on April ballots a use-tax question that would allow the counties to collect a tax on out-of-state and person-to-person vehicle purchases. The amount of the tax charged, if approved by voters, would be equal to the sales tax rate charged in each county. In Bollinger County, the tax rate is 1.75 cents on the dollar; in Perry County, the rate is 1.875 cents; and in Scott County, the rate is 1 cent.

Cape Girardeau County will not ask for the tax, according to Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy. Tracy said the commission had hoped local chambers of commerce would gather information to present to commissioners about the use tax, but that did not happen before Tuesday's deadline to place the question on the ballot.

Commissioners in counties that opted for the ballot question, including Scott County Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger, say they hope voters will perceive the use tax simply as a restoration of revenue counties once had received but are now having to do without.

"It's not really added to what they pay now unless they are definitely buying out of state," Burger said.

The Missouri Supreme Court last spring decided that local governments no longer could charge sales tax on vehicles purchased out of state or on person-to-person sales. As a result, some local governments are facing up to a 20 percent decrease in annual sales-tax revenue. A Missouri Association of Counties estimate released last year on revenue loss for Cape Girardeau County was $250,000. For Scott County, it was about $120,000.

Groups that represent Missouri automobile dealers have panned the ruling as creating an unfair market environment for dealers, especially if the dealers are close to state lines, as are those in Southeast Missouri.

County officials have remained hopeful the state legislature will pass a bill during the current session to reinstate their ability to collect the sales taxes, although a bill that would have done so was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon during the last session. Some House Republicans attempted to override the veto but could not come up with enough votes.

They still may get their wish -- Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, introduced a bill on the floor Tuesday that relates to local taxes on motor vehicle sales.

The city of Perryville also will seek a use tax on the April ballot with a 1.875-cent rate.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

131 S. Winchester St., Benton, Mo.

1 Barton Square, Jackson, Mo.

321 N. Main St., Perryville, Mo.

204 High St., Marble Hill, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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