Final figures are now available for Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) in 2012. After two quarters of contraction, taxable sales rebounded sharply in the fourth quarter of the year. Not including gasoline, ATS increased by 3.5% in the fourth quarter — a larger increase than had been indicated by preliminary data. With gasoline prices down slightly in the fourth quarter, total gasoline sales increased by only 0.8%. Consequently, the increase in Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) was slightly smaller than ATS growth: 3.2%. On a year-over-year basis, ATS and ATSIG were up 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively, in the fourth quarter.
The downturn in taxable sales during the second and third quarters of 2012 has been something of a mystery. In particular, it seemed to be taking place against a backdrop of fairly steady economic growth suggested by other economic indicators. However, recent data revisions to personal income and employment have provided corroborating evidence that economic activity slowed noticably in the third quarter. The 2012 experieence shows how sales tax data can sometimes provide more accurate and timely information about the state of the Arkansas economy than the “official” data produced by Federal government agencies (which are often subject to considerable revision over time).
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Arkansas Taxable Sales (ATS) is calculated by the Institute for Economic Advancement to serve as a timely proxy for Arkansas retail sales. The series is derived from sales and use tax data, adjusting for the relative timing of tax collections and underlying sales, changes in tax laws, and seasonal patterns in the data. Arkansas Taxable Sales Including Gasoline (ATSIG) incorporates data on the state motor fuel tax and gasoline prices from the Oil Price Information Service.
A spreadsheet of the data is available here: Arkansas Taxable Sales 2012:Q4 (Excel file)