Our Impact

Revenue Working Group Update

Posted by Megan Greeley on December 17, 2019

Earlier this year, Senate President Karen Spilka asked the Chamber to participate in the Senate Revenue Working Group. The Senate President convened the group and tasked them with reviewing the Massachusetts state tax code in order to identify ways that the Commonwealth can modernize and improve our existing system. The working group is chaired by Senator Adam Hinds and consists of 21 leaders, from a variety of organizations and government offices, with expertise in tax and economic policy. The group is split into several subcommittees: Sales Tax, Income Tax, Corporate Tax, and Other Taxes. Chamber CEO Jim Rooney fills a leadership role in the working group as the Co-Chairman of the Other Tax Subcommittee. 

The ‘Other’ Subcommittee has identified several focus areas that the Chamber and our partners on the subcommittee are studying for opportunities to recommend modernizations and improvements

‘Other’ Tobacco Products

Tobacco products are not taxed in a uniform way in Massachusetts. While cigarettes are stamped to provide proof of tax payment, a variety of other tobacco products (OTP), including cigars, smoking tobacco for pipes, and smokeless tobacco, are not. The subcommittee considers this an area where improvements to collections could be made in order to fully realize the tobacco sales revenue due to the Commonwealth and is studying the recommendations made by the Department of Revenue’s Illegal Tobacco Taskforce

Massachusetts Alcohol Taxes

Massachusetts last raised its taxes on alcohol in 1979. The subcommittee studied results and recommendations from the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission of Massachusetts 2017 task force report and is including the alcohol tax as a focus area for improvement.

Massachusetts Estate Tax

Massachusetts levies an estate tax on estates worth over $1 million, which is the lowest threshold in the nation among states that levy an estate or inheritance tax. Most states have neither. The estate tax in Massachusetts is particularly aggressive and applies to the full value of the estate rather than the value in excess of $1 million.  The subcommittee is studying the interplay of the state estate tax with the federal estate tax, comparisons to other states, as well as revenue estimates from the Department of Revenue to identify recommendations for modernization of the estate tax.

Massachusetts Hospitality Surcharge

Currently, revenue raised from the room occupancy tax is not going back to the tourism industry but into the general fund. As a result, the travel and tourism budget pales in comparison to competitive states, and revenues raised from visitors to Massachusetts are impacted. We are considering the best measure to improve this revenue stream by taking into account practices of similar states.

The subcommittee is hosting regular meetings with experts in each category and conducting robust discussions about the best steps forward for the Commonwealth that rely on data and established best practices. The working group plans to finalize a comprehensive report or detailed recommendations in 2020.

Our peers in the other subcommittees have also been hard at work discussing improvements and updates to the Earned Income Tax Credit, rate of taxation on ‘unearned income’, point of sales technology, and the interplay of state and federal tax code especially as it affects corporations after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, among many other topics. 

Members of the Senate Revenue Working Group

Senator Adam G. Hinds (D – Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden), Chair, Senate Revenue Working Group

Senator William Brownsberger (D- Belmont), Senate Vice Chair of the Committee on Revenue

Frank Callahan, President, Massachusetts Building Trades Council AFL-CIO

JD Chesloff, Executive Director, Mass Business Roundtable

Nancy Creed, President, Springfield Regional Chamber

Peter Enrich, Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Deb Fastino, Executive Director, Coalition for Social Justice

Senator Ryan Fattman (R- Sutton), Member, Joint Committee on Revenue

Christina Fisher, Executive Director for Massachusetts and the Northeast, TechNet

Hilary Bacon Gabrieli, Tax Policy Attorney

Harris Gruman, Executive Director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council

Beth Huang, Director, Massachusetts Voter Table

Eileen McAnneny, President, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation

Tim Murray, President & CEO, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce

Amy Pitter, President & CEO, Massachusetts Society of CPAs

John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Mayor Dan Rivera, City of Lawrence

Marie-Frances Rivera, President, Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center

James E. Rooney, President & CEO, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

David E. Sullivan, Attorney

Steven A. Tolman, President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO