For two consecutive quarters, state income tax revenues have disappointed. And in the first quarter of 2014, state income tax revenue actually declined.
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute reports Personal Income Tax Revenues Show Significant Softening in the Fourth Quarter of 2013.
Total state tax collections have grown in each quarter of the last four years. However, growth softened significantly in the third and fourth quarters of 2013. Early figures for the first quarter of 2014 indicate even further softening in state tax collections, and possible declines in personal income tax collections.
Officials in many states have been facing extraordinary challenges in forecasting income taxes due to uncertainties related to capital gains, which can have a large impact on estimated taxes paid in December and January, and on payments with tax returns filed in April. The uncertainty has been heightened this year due to the strong performance of the stock market in 2013 and the un- intended consequences of the fiscal cliff. Calendar year 2013 ended up being a remarkable year for the stock market, gaining 19 percent as measured by the S&P 500 Index, creating a favorable environment for capital gains. On the other hand, for reasons discussed within, many taxpayers appear to have accelerated income from calendar year 2013 to calendar year 2012 to avoid higher federal tax rates, likely creating a “trough” in capital gains in 2013. This creates great uncertainty for states: Was the stock market strong enough to more than offset the “trough” effect related to the fiscal cliff, so that capital gains would be strong in 2013, or would the latter effect dominate, resulting in a large decline in capital gains?