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Bill Rubin column: Check the receipt: Pennies grow to millions

Bill Rubin

With life's hectic pace, very few consumers pay attention to receipts from retailers. Clearly noted at the bottom of a receipt is a reference to "state tax" and "local tax."

Wisconsin collects a sales and use tax of 5 percent and almost all of the 72 counties impose an additional half-of-a-percent tax. St. Croix County's optional tax has been on the books for decades. Other counties are still coming to the party. Brown County began its half-cent tax on Jan. 1, 2018 and Calumet will begin collecting on April 1.

A one dollar purchase of a taxable item results in the collection of an extra five and one-half cents. No big deal, perhaps, until a consumer makes a major purchase. A $10,000 purchase means the state gets $500 and the county's share is $50.

A recent receipt disclosed 26 cents assigned to the state's sales tax and three cents to the county. Loose change? Maybe not. In the first two months of 2018, St. Croix received $1.263 million as its sales tax distribution from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, including around $832,000 in February, likely tied to holiday shopping in November and December. In 2017, Revenue sent St. Croix $7.63 million in distributions, up from $7.26 million in 2016. In 2012, St. Croix received $5.44 million in sales tax distributions. Nice upward trends. Local and area consumers are spending, and retailers are selling their products.

The additional sales tax is a good source of revenue for a growing county like St. Croix with its long list of wants and needs. Without the extra tax, funding for the wish list items would fall to taxpayers, including homeowners, commercial, industrial, and farms properties.

Next time you're handed a receipt, glance at the bottom before it's tucked into a pocket. It's clear that three cents here and there to the county add up!

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