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Business leaders in Bozeman consider potential impact of sales tax in Montana

Posted at 8:18 PM, Dec 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-18 23:37:58-05

BOZEMAN – Business owners gathered in Bozeman on Tuesday to discuss a proposed statewide sales tax and another option that would allow for sales tax in counties bordering national parks.

Montana House Rep. Kerry White, a Bozeman Republican, is proposing a bill that would add a 2.5 percent sales tax to goods, excluding groceries and medicines.

Having a sales tax would potentially eliminate most property taxes, supporters say.

With the Treasure State’s population of about 1.1 million and 12 million visitors last year statewide, many Montanans believe this could be a good change.

“So the statewide tax, I think what you’re looking at is rather than having a $300-a-month property tax bill, basically that bill goes away. You’re paying a two-and-a-half percent sales tax on goods that are taxed as you go along month to month,” said Bozeman Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Daryl Schliem. “I think he made a good point, roughly at a two percent sales tax, if you spent $100,000 a year, that’s $2,000 a year. How many people spend $100,000 in goods on an annual outgoing basis?”

Montana, Oregon, New Hampshire, Delaware and Alaska are the only five states in the country with no statewide sales tax. Over the past few decades, several efforts have arisen in the Montana Legislature to pass a sales tax with no success, largely because of opposition of rural lawmakers.

This session, backers say the Gateway Local Option tax is another option that would allow for the counties surrounding national parks to have sales tax. Similar measures, backed by the Billings Chamber of Commerce and other tourism and trade groups, made little headway in the 2017 Legislature.

Story by Emma Hamilton, MTN News