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The Complicated Question of Ranking the Cortez Sales Tax Rate

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Does the city of Cortez have a high sales-tax rate? That question has come up following a remark made by Montezuma County Commissioner James Lambert. In a recent interview with KSJD’s Austin Cope, Lambert said he’d heard that Cortez has the second-highest sales-tax rate in Colorado. It turns out that isn’t true, but earlier corrections we posted on the KSJD web site also contained some inaccuracies. It’s easy to become confused trying to figure out whose sales tax is highest. The Colorado Department of Revenue has tables showing tax rates for cities, counties, and special districts, but it doesn’t rank those by amount and doesn’t show how the different taxes overlap. However, the tables show that there are at least 17 municipalities with higher taxes than Cortez. Currently Cortez’s sales tax is 4.05 percent. A handful of cities have rates of 5 percent, including Mt. Crested Butte, Estes Park, Grand Lake, and Empire. Others have rates under 5 percent but higher than Cortez, such as Telluride, with 4.5. Cortez’s  tax is somewhat unusual in that it is levied on groceries. Many others, including the state tax of 2.9 percent, are not. But Cortez residents are fortunate because Montezuma County has no sales tax at all, although there is a tax of 0.4 percent within the county hospital district. That is a general sales tax with some exclusions, such as groceries and prescription drugs.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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