Missouri offers millions to big businesses for making timely payments on their sales taxes, something these retailers are already required to do under the law. That was one of the findings in an audit released by State Auditor Nicole Galloway on the collection of sales and use tax for fiscal year 2018.
"Missourians have no idea that hundreds of millions of their tax dollars are funneled to corporations for simply doing what the law already requires," Auditor Galloway said. "As I have done before, I am urging legislators to change the law to limit the discount that benefits the state's largest retailers. The state must do a better job determining which policies are working and which aren't."
The audit also said the 2% discount given to retailers for paying the sales and use tax they owe on time is the second-most generous such discount in the country. In fiscal year 2018, approximately $124 million in sales and use tax was paid by taxpayers, but then retained by businesses due to the discount.
The audit also found the Department of Revenue (DOR) can't determine the impact of more than 200 sales and use tax exemptions on state and local revenue because the majority of exemptions aren't tracked. The state has 214 sales and use tax exemptions, but only tracks the fiscal impact of three of them. This makes it difficult to know their actual fiscal impact and leaves the legislature unable to make informed decisions about the effectiveness and cost of the untracked exemptions.
Auditor Galloway raised similar concerns during her Budget Integrity Series. A 2017 audit found legislative giveaways were undermining the state's fiscal health and recommended changes to state law to ensure accurate tracking of their impact.
The complete audit can be found here.