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#DataTuesday: Salt Lake County Sees 2% Increase in May Taxable Sales, Restaurants Continue to Hurt

Posted By Regional Development
July 21, 2020

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Utah State Tax Commission released data for May’s taxable sales on July 16, providing another snapshot of Salt Lake County’s economy during COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Salt Lake County’s Economic Impact Working Group has worked with the State Tax Commission to get data sets faster to more quickly visualize local economic indicators on the Economic Impact Information Portal. A first glance of May 2020, Salt Lake County saw a 2.4% increase in total taxable sales over May 2019, which is a departure from April’s 5.9% decrease over the previous April. In May, online shopping taxable sales were the strongest and grew by $85.5 million dollars.

A graph depicts % change of taxable sales from March to May 2020.

On the flipside, restaurants and bars continue to feel the pain of large declines. In May, the industry saw upwards of $58 million decrease in sales – an improvement over April, but still the largest monetary decline of all Salt Lake County’s industries by far. This was also during the time of the State lifting some restrictions with color-coded phases, and COVID-19 cases in the County only totaling approximately 2,811 for the month.

Image Caption: The graph shown can be found in Dashboard 2, Page 5.

The restaurant industry’s May decrease can be seen on the Info Portal’s new dashboard page: 2019-2020 Taxable Sales Comparison, which allows users to directly compare data during COVID-19 months and view the dollar amount changed, as well as the percent change by major business categories.

Looking at the months of COVID-19 collectively, the industry with the greatest percentage decrease has now become Accommodations after inclusion of May’s preliminary data. The industry’s taxable sales have dropped 65%.

Because Salt Lake County is working to get data more quickly, it should be noted that the current data is preliminary and subject to revision due to late returns, amended returns, required statutory/regulatory changes, and others that impact tax return data. We would also like to note for County and city officials that this metric is different than the tax distribution they will receive for May.

Taxable sales data is obtained from sales tax returns from monthly, quarterly, and annual filers. Taxable sales data reported by quarterly and annual filers are included in the last month of each quarter and year. This results in relatively higher taxable sales numbers in filing periods at the end of each quarter.

The Info Portal, found at, is a new tool created during COVID-19 to help Salt Lake County assess the pandemic’s economic impact so policies and programs can aid in short- and long-term economic recovery.