Virus Outbreak New England

A closed sign hangs in the window of a shop March 25, 2020, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire businesses already struggling from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could get a reprieve from possible tax hikes if lawmakers make a change to the state budget, as recently proposed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

The move would bring relief to businesses that have seen revenues plummet during the lockdowns enacted to prevent spread of the coronavirus, Bruce Berke, New Hampshire state director at the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), told The Center Square.

“March came in under expectations, I’m told numbers for April are pretty dire,” Berke said. "It’s not going to be pretty; if May and June follow that trend, maintaining fiscal expectations for 2020 will be very challenging."

Berke said there was an appetite among state lawmakers to repeal a section in the budget that provides for a increase in business tax rates.

Currently, when the fiscal year ends June 30, should state revenues come in at 6 percent under what was forecast, prior business tax cuts would be overturned, triggering a potential 12.5 percent tax increase on January 1, 2021.

“To have one more thing added to a very debilitating list that already exists is not helpful; there’s no point in it, it’s going to slow down economic recovery,” Berke said.

Responding to concerns from the business community, Sununu said in an April 23 letter that he would ask the Legislature to repeal the triggers that could place undue burden on businesses through no fault of their own.

Because convening the Legislature in one place could pose a challenge under current social distancing guidelines, plans for meeting remotely and incorporating public input are being considered, Berke said.

“It’s pretty clear those taxes were not going to go up before, because the state was meeting revenue goals before the pandemic,” Berke said. “And our legislative leaders need to hear that. People don’t need another challenge to opening their businesses back up. They have plenty of challenges now, they don’t need more.”