Not all tax cuts are created equal
3 min read

Not all tax cuts are created equal

21st Cent. Workforce
Feb 1
3 min read

A new report from the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration shows that Arkansas is giving away nearly $1 billion per year in sales tax exemptions for specific industries, purchases, or special interests. 

Yes, that’s $1 billion—with a “B.” Or close to a third of what the state income tax brings in.

This does not even include broad-based exemptions such as for prescription drugs, as well as for groceries and used vehicles (both of which are taxed at reduced rates).

From advertising space in newspapers to twine used in tomato production, these dozens and dozens of carve-outs to our sales tax quickly add up. And unlike animals, not all tax cuts are equal. Some are more equal than others.

Here’s why: every penny Arkansas chooses to give away to special interests in the form of tax exemptions is a penny that cannot go towards chipping away at the state income tax.

In fact, if we were to repeal these exemptions overnight, we’d be nearly a third of the way to eliminating the state income tax.

But this has not stopped additional bills to create carve-outs to the sales tax from popping up this legislative session.

Here are just a sampling of the new bills filed to create new sales tax exemptions for specific purchases, industries, and organizations:

  • HB1089 eliminates sales and use taxes for purchases made by the Morgan Nick Foundation
  • HB1046 eliminates the gross receipts tax for wheelchair-accessible vehicles
  • HB1172 eliminates sales and use taxes for mortality composting devices sold to a commercial livestock or poultry producer
  • HB1190 eliminates sales and use taxes for certain utilities used by a swine farm
  • HB1195 eliminates sales and use taxes for residential cleaning and janitorial work
  • HB1194 eliminates sales and use taxes for manufacturers’ rebates on vehicles
  • HB1235 eliminates sales and use taxes for purchases made by a nonprofit that works with Arkansas citizens with developmental disabilities

No doubt many of these bills and their sponsors are well-intentioned, but policymakers and the public must be more aware that they come at a real cost. And that cost is a longer and longer timeframe for eliminating our state income tax and reversing our long-held state tradition of punishing our neighbors for working hard.

We'll be tracking many of these sales tax exemption bills in our all-new bill tracker.

While we are generally in favor of any tax cut that puts more money in the pockets of Arkansans, we would highly prefer that state policymakers focus their attention on reducing state spending (and exemptions) and develop a comprehensive plan for phasing out the state income tax. For that reason, we are giving these sales tax exemptions low grades.

Image of the story authorNicholas Horton
Founder & CEO

Nic Horton is a native Arkansan and Founder & CEO of Opportunity Arkansas. He has spent more than a decade in the conservative movement as an expert on election, disability, tax, welfare, and workforce reform.

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Image of the story authorHayden Dublois
Visiting Economist

Hayden Dublois is the Visiting Economist at Opportunity Arkansas. His primary research areas are welfare, health care, workforce, unemployment, and tax policy.

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