North Dakota Sales Tax Revenues up Nearly 10 Percent in 2018’s First Quarter, but the Increases Were Mostly in Oil Country


With lawmakers probably looking at more budget belt tightening in their 2019 session which begins in January news of increased tax revenues is very welcome.

That’s exactly the news we got today from Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger’s office.

“Taxable sales and purchases for January, February and March 2018 were nearly $4.1 billion, a 9.55 percent increase over those months in 2017,” a statement from that office reads (see below).

Here’s a chart from the release comparing Q1 2018 to the same time period from previous years.

“This 10 percent increase in the first quarter is the largest year-over-year growth we’ve seen since 2014,” Rauschenberger said. “We are continuing with positive gains as this is the fourth quarter in a row that we’ve seen growth in this report. This is a good measure of economic activity in the state.”

But that rise in economic activity was anything but uniform across the state. In fact, the state’s four largest communities all saw sales tax decreases including particularly large ones in Bismarck and Grand Forks. Williston and Dickinson, both squarely in the oil patch, saw significant increases:

  • Williston – Increase of 33.19 percent
  • Dickinson – Increase of 14.72 percent
  • Fargo – Decrease of 1.96 percent
  • Minot – Decrease of 2.4 percent
  • Bismarck – Decrease of 7.16 percent
  • Grand Forks – Decrease of 15.17 percent

To drill down on the point a bit, check out this county map from the Tax Commissioner’s office. Statewide the sales tax trend is down outside of some pockets mostly in the oil patch (click for a larger view):

The state may have seen an overall uptick in the sales tax in Q1 of this year, but I’m not sure that’s an indication of statewide economic health. Oil activity has been coming up again, but in most of the rest of the state commerce is trending down.

Here’s the full report from the Tax Commissioner’s office.

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