House Repeals 'Tech Tax'
BOSTON — The House of Representatives on Wednesday repealed the much maligned "tech tax" that had been part of the revenue package in this year's state budget.
The addition of the 6.25 percent sales tax to software and computer design services had been estimated to raise $161 million this fiscal year but ran into trouble when no one could adequately explain how it would be implemented. The state's high-tech industry revolted, saying the tax would cost jobs and that its wording was too vague.
"I'm proud of the House's vote today to repeal the so-called tech tax. Our vote sends a strong message to the world that Massachusetts is the place for innovators to succeed and thrive," said House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
"Because jobs and economic growth are central to the House's agenda, I promised to listen to business leaders and House members on what the tax's impact would be when this measure was initially passed. After listening, we learned of the burden of this tax. Our strong commitment to business and the innovation economy led to its repeal."
The vote was 156-1. The Senate is expected to vote for repeal on Thursday.
Amazon to Collect Massachusetts Sales Tax Next Year
BOSTON — Massachusetts residents will have to pay a little more next holiday season for their online purchases.
Gov. Deval Patrick and Amazon announced on Tuesday an agreement for the online retail giant to collect and remit state sales taxes beginning next Nov. 1. According to the press statement, Amazon also plans to create hundreds of high-tech jobs in Massachusetts in coming years.
Online retailers for years have been under pressure to collect state sales taxes even if they don't have a physical presence in the state. Brick-and-mortar merchants say Web retailers failure to collect taxes puts them at a disadvantage, states that they're losing billions in revenue.
The Congressional Research Service says states lost some $8.6 billion in tax revenue in 2010 alone.
Amazon already collects sales taxes for California, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. Massachusetts and five other states will be added in the next couple years.
"We are thankful Amazon was willing to come to the table and we will continue our conversations with them about creating jobs here," said Patrick in a statement. "This agreement is a win for all sides, and I am pleased it promises to generate millions in long-term revenue for the commonwealth."
Patrick and Amazon officials reiterated support for federal legislation to resolve the sales tax issue. The Supreme Court in 1967 determined that collecting sales tax would place an undue burden on what were then catalog sales but technology has vastly changed the remote retail industry.
"We appreciate Governor Patrick's commitment to Massachusetts jobs and investment and his support for legislation now before Congress that would provide a final resolution to the sales tax issue," said Paul Misener, Amazon vice president of global public policy. "We look forward to creating hundreds of high tech jobs in Massachusetts and continuing to work with Governor Patrick, state leaders, retailers and Congress to pass federal legislation permitting interstate sales tax collection."
DEP Fines Former Pittsfield Gas Station Owner $4,500
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has fined the property owner of a former gasoline station and auto repair facility for his failure to clean up known contamination on his property.
Anthony J. Crea, who owns the property at 483 West Housatonic St., was fined $4,500. According to MassDEP, Crea failed to undertake cleanup actions in response to multiple notices at the site, where a number of businesses currently operate.
Following several notices sent to Crea dating back to 2002, MassDEP entered into a consent order with Crea in November 2008. The agreement required the completion of response actions by April 15, 2009. After not receiving the required documentation from Crea, MassDEP issued the fine.
"The failure of Mr. Crea to comply with the regulations is ongoing and willful," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield. "We have, on numerous occasions, extended latitude to Mr. Crea in an effort to support his cleanup of this property. Unfortunately, we have exhausted our options and enforcement is now needed to regain compliance. It is essential that the cleanup is completed to eliminate threats to the public, prevent further damage to the environment, and allow potential opportunities for future economic development of this property."
The property previously was operated by Sun Oil Company and other entities for at least 80 years for the distribution of oil and gasoline products.
According to MassDEP, previous owners of the property initially completed a number of cleanup actions, including the removal of several gasoline underground storage tanks (USTs) from the former gasoline station and auto repair facility. However, fire department records indicate that additional USTs may still remain on the site. Initial assessment confirmed the presence of gasoline and other oil contamination in the soils and groundwater on-site. The nearest potential receptor is the Housatonic River.
House Gives Initial Approval to Jobless Insurance Rate Changes
The Berkshire Chamber passed on this information:
The state House budget committee on Thursday approved an unemployment insurance rate freeze bill that aides say would hit employers with per-employee average increase of $110 per year but spare businesses from a rate schedule with even higher rates. More Massachusetts residents have been relying on the fund during the recession for cash benefits and the fund will need years of federal loans to keep benefits flowing.
Unemployment in Massachusetts hit 9.4 percent in December. Patrick administration officials said last year they were considering a rate relief plan but no proposal has been filed and steep unemployment insurance rate hikes are scheduled to trigger in the spring, unless legislators and Patrick agree to a new schedule.
"Freezing the rate is an appropriate step at least based on the numbers that I've seen," John Regan of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, an employer trade group, told the Statehouse News Service on Thursday morning. "We'd clearly like to see systemic reform as well, not that we're ungrateful for the step that's being taken." The House gave the bill initial approval Thursday morning and it could receive further attention in the afternoon.
The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce will keep you informed on this topic. If you have any questions, call 413-499-4000.