New York City projects a 1.8 percent decrease in sales-tax revenue this fiscal year, cutting $85 million out of cash receipts. But early post-Christmas estimates of holiday sales point up the likelihood that New York will further slash its sales-tax estimates in January, bringing the city closer to income-tax increases.
MasterCard SpendingPulse reported significant drops in national consumer spending in several categories in which New York typically excels. Luxury sales between November 1 and December 24 were down 35 percent, electronics/appliances down 27 percent, and women’s clothing down 23 percent. Total sales, minus gasoline, were down 2.5 percent.
Statewide, sales and use taxes were down 7 percent in November, according to the state’s department of finance, partly due to a late Thanksgiving.
Last year, New York City, particularly Manhattan’s luxury stores, benefited from hordes of foreign-tourists toting half a dozen shopping bags filled with expensive goods. This year, it was easy to observe that the city’s Midtown tourist areas first were less crowded and second were peopled with a different type of tourist.
Foreign tourists largely had been replaced by middle-class American families who had taken a cheap bus in for the day. Few of them carried shopping bags from expensive stores. Plus, early, heavy discounts trumpeted at luxury-goods sellers like Tumi and Fedon also made it clear that the sales simply weren’t there for them.
Statewide, New York gets 18 percent of its sales taxes in the months of November and December, so a busted holiday season has an outsized effect on the entire year’s take, for both the state and the city.
So a revised sales-tax estimate by New York City in a few weeks’ time shouldn’t surprise anyone.
But it does mean that Mayor Bloomberg can cite it as part of the continued fiscal deterioration that he last month all but promised would lead to as much as a 15 percent hike in the personal-income tax rate early in the New Year.