Nevada Sales Increase

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada merchants had an increase in sales in August - but it was only on paper as a result of previous sales finally being reported under a tax amnesty program.

Without the $263 million in old, previously unreported sales, the $4 billion in August sales drops to $3.8 billion for a decrease of 3.6 percent compared with the same month in 2007. With the old sales left in, it looks like a 3.1 percent increase.

Under the tax amnesty program, merchants were able to pay back taxes without penalty. That helped to produce $80.7 million for state coffers, up 2 percent. That's out of $297 million in August sales taxes. The rest went to local governments and schools.

Gov. Jim Gibbons said Wednesday that the sales tax collections produced the first percentage gain in 15 months, but added the statistics "need to be kept in perspective."

"While the outcome of the amnesty program exceeds original expectations, Nevada's economy continues to struggle due to the decline in the housing market and conservative consumer spending, although construction activity remains strong in the south," he stated.

The state Taxation Department said a breakdown of the $4 billion in August sales showed that Clark County, which takes in Las Vegas, had a 5.8 percent increase while Washoe County, encompassing Reno, had a 4.6 percent decrease.

Sales in Clark County totaled just over $3 billion in August; while sales in Washoe County amounted to $568.7 million.

The Taxation Department report shows that restaurant-bar sales totaled $595.7 million, down 1.7 percent. Such sales are seen as good indicators of tourist traffic in Nevada.

Vehicle and auto part sales statewide totaled $400.6 million in August, down 18.8 percent; while building material sales amounted to $178.5 million, down 5.3 percent.

Clothing store sales totaled $256.9 million in August, up 8.2 percent; general merchandise sales amounted to $332.7 million, down 1.9 percent; and durable goods wholesaling added up to $316.3 million, down 3.4 percent.

The report also showed that excise taxes collected on cigarettes, liquor and other sources during August totaled $16.3 million. That's down 8 percent compared with August 2007.

he sales and excise tax report follows a report earlier in the month from the state Gaming Control Board showing an 8.1 percent slump in money won from gamblers. State taxes based on the casino wins amounted to $54.6 million. That's about 6 percent below the collections at the same point a year ago.

Taxes on sales and on casino winnings are the mainstays of the state's revenue sources.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-10-29-08 1919EDT