For August 2023, Kansas tax revenue was 1.9 percent lower than August 2022, and 3.7 percent less than estimated.
Tax reports from the State of Kansas for August 2023 show tax revenues lower than the same month the prior year.
When reporting on Kansas tax collections, the comparison is usually to the estimated tax collections. Those estimates are revised based on economic conditions. To get a feel for the effects of the Kansas economy and state tax policy, we should compare to the same month the prior year. (The estimated revenue figures are still important because the state bases the budget on them. If the actual revenue is below the estimated revenue, there may not be enough income to pay expenses.)
Table 1 shows August 2023 tax collections for major categories. Notably, corporate income tax collections were higher by 62.3 percent than the same month last year. Retail sales tax fell by 5.4 percent. Overall, collections were 1.9 percent lower than in the same month one year ago.
August is the second month of fiscal year 2024. Table 2 shows collections for this year and the last at the same point in the fiscal year.
Charts 4a and 4b compare collections to the same month of the previous year.
Kansas tax revenues have underperformed estimates for the two largest sources, which are individual income taxes and retail sales tax. Table 3 summarizes the variance between estimated and actual revenue for major tax items.
When the line is above zero in nearby chart 5a, actual revenue was greater than the estimate, and the line is nearly always positive for the past five years or so. Estimates are important because the legislature uses them to make spending decisions. Beyond that, the variance between actual revenue and the estimate doesn’t have much meaning.
The governor uses a positive variance as a sign of economic success, remarking in her press release for last April: “Time and again, we have exceeded our estimated tax collections, providing further proof that we can responsibly axe taxes on groceries, retirement, and property for Kansans.”
For the month before that, she said: “Revenues have exceeded estimates for 30 out of the last 31 months — a clear sign that our efforts to make Kansas a place where businesses and families want to call home is paying off.” But this is not the only conclusion to draw. Exceeding estimates just as easily means the estimates are wrong, possibly for reasons other than the inherent difficulties of making estimates. And if the purpose of these estimates is to be accurate, the state is not doing a very good job.
Over the past five or so years, revenues have exceeded estimates, sometimes by large margins. For the current year, however, this has not been the case. Chart 5b shows the cumulative variance for each fiscal year, with a positive number meaning actual collections were greater than estimated. The trend of positive variances starting with fiscal year 2018 is distinct. This chart does not show total collections and does not illustrate the health of the Kansas economy. It simply compares estimates to actuals.
The report from Kansas Legislative Research Department is on this page.
I have updated my interactive visualization of Kansas tax revenue with this data. Click here to use it. There appears to be no statement from the governor’s office.