The Michigan service tax, a six-percent tax on select services, was repealed by the Michigan Legislature only hours after it look effect last weekend. The service tax was initially passed by the legislature because it was billed (and correctly so) as a way to modernize the state's tax structure; it was also intended to help to fill a multi-million dollar shortfall in the state's 2007-08 budget.
A number of issues led to the tax's untimely demise. The enacting legislation was passed very quickly without the planning necessary to ensure a quality bill; there were inconsistencies regarding which services were taxed (for example, skiing was taxed, but golf was not); and business-to-business services were included in the legislation (something most economists recommend against). The revenue hole from repealing the service tax will be filled by a surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax. Many state business interests preferred the business tax surcharge over the sales tax base expansion proposal. Clearly Michigan's path to sales tax base expansion was rocky, but as the bases for state economies continue to change from goods to services, it's inevitable that states looking for revenue will turn to expanding their sales tax base. There are important lessons to be learned from Michigan's attempt. For more read ITEP's policy brief.