Newspaper sales tax effective Oct. 1

The state budget that lawmakers enacted on June 26 contains two significant changes for Maine’s newspapers.
The MPA lost its fight to maintain newspapers’ longstanding sales-tax exemption. To balance the budget, the Legislature approved a plan to make newspapers and other periodicals taxable. The new tax, 5.5 percent, will take effect Oct. 1. It will apply only to newspaper sales, not advertising.
As the MPA argued before the Legislature, collecting the new tax will create logistical challenges for newspapers. The MPA welcomes members’ questions and will work to offer guidance in the three months before newspapers become taxable.
The budget also contains a significant step forward, by ensuring that the state’s newspapers will continue to deliver public notices at least through 2017. In exchange, the MPA and the state’s newspapers will take on new responsibilities.
The provision says any “legal notice appearing in a newspaper … must be placed on any publicly accessible website that the newspaper maintains” by the day it appears in print. That requirement will take effect Jan. 1.
Starting July 1, 2014, newspapers’ websites will have to offer a search function for notices. And the MPA will be required to establish and maintain an online repository of public notices statewide. The MPA is now preparing to establish that system.
The MPA, with key support from Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations Committee, backed the proposal to ensure that public agencies continue placing notices in newspapers – in print and online – and to head off an effort by Gov. Paul LePage to shift state, county and local notices away from newspapers and onto a state-owned website.
The MPA plans to hold a workshop at the Fall Conference in October to help member newspapers plan to meet the new requirements for public notices.
Send any questions you have about the sales tax and public notices to