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Taxable sales in Nevada up 3 percent in December

Sandra Chereb, Associated Press

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Taxable sales in Nevada rose 3 percent in December compared with the same month a year ago, but the Department of Taxation reported Tuesday that general fund revenues from sales tax collections are 2 percent, or about $9 million, less than projections the Economic Forum made late last year.

Still, the December report marks the 30th consecutive month of increased sales activity since Nevada began clawing its way out the Great Recession in July 2010.

Statewide, merchants sold $4.3 billion in goods, on which the state collected $336.5 million in gross sales and use taxes. The revenue collection is up 3.6 percent for the month and 5.6 percent for the fiscal year that began July 1.

For the month, the portion of taxes that feed the state general fund totaled $84.2 million, representing a 2.1 percent increase over December 2011. But for the fiscal year, those collections are $9.3 million below the forecast made Nov. 30 by the Economic Forum, an independent panel of business experts that projects how much money the state will have to spend in the next two years.

The forum's projections are used to build the state budget, and the governor and lawmakers are barred by law from exceeding forum predictions when setting spending unless a new revenue source is specified.

Sales and use taxes account for about 30 percent of general fund revenues.

Eight of Nevada's 17 counties reported greater sales in December. Increases were noted in the sales of vehicles and parts, bars and restaurants, accommodations, and clothing and accessories.

Clark County, in southern Nevada, had taxable sales of $3.1 billion in December, an increase of 6 percent from the same month in 2011.. In northern Nevada's largest county, Washoe, sales totaled $552 million, down 4.7 percent.

Other counties posting declines were Churchill, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Lyon, Pershing and White Pine. Most of those are rural counties in Nevada's mining regions, where the purchase of mammoth equipment often skews results in the monthly sales tax report.

Statewide, sales at bars and restaurants rose 5.4 percent in December, and accommodations saw a 38.2 percent increase. Both of those categories are key indicators on the health of Nevada's vital tourism industry.

Sales of vehicles and parts rose 10 percent, while clothing and accessories sales climbed nearly 6 percent. Telecommunications rose 38 percent and sales at food and beverage stores were up 7.3 percent. Nevada's battered construction industry as a whole saw a nearly 25 percent gain in sales activity, and sales registered by specialty trade contractors shot up 60 percent.

Besides sales and use taxes, the taxation department said $99.6 million was collected for the state's Modified Business Tax, a payroll tax paid quarterly that is based on employee wages. The taxation department's report said those taxes for the first two quarters is up 0.15 percent, or about $286,000 above projections.

Excise taxes — a combination of levies imposed for liquor, tobacco, live entertainment and other minor revenue streams — totaled nearly 109 million for December, an increase of 6.5 percent.