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Chris Christie “Not Worried” About Gift Card Companies Leaving NJ [POLL]

Last week, American Express, InComm and Blackhawk Network all announced plans to no longer operate in New Jersey, rather than comply with the law that lets the State of New Jersey seize the value of unredeemed gift cards after just two years.

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The New Jersey Retail Merchants Association (NJRMA) and the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA) have released an analysis estimating the potential annual loss of sales tax revenue as a result of New Jersey’s unclaimed property law at $64-94 million. Governor Chris Christie isn’t buying it.

The analysis, conducted by the financial services consulting firm First Annapolis, focuses on studies that have shown consumers using gift cards often spend an incremental amount beyond the face value of the card. As gift cards exit New Jersey, this incremental spending is eliminated from the market, lowering total retail sales in New Jersey. Any decrease in New Jersey’s retail sales would also result in a decrease in the state’s sales and use tax revenue.

“That is certainly not what was indicated to us when the studies were done when the law was put into effect in 2010,” says Christie. “The argument now over this is; when a consumer doesn’t use the card. Who gets the money, the companies or the government?”

Christie says for the longest time the companies have been profiting wildly, but under New Jersey law if the consumer comes back to the government and wants the money back the consumer can do it through unclaimed property.

As for the companies pulling up stakes and leaving New Jersey, Christie says, “The companies are doing this as a way to try to threaten us because they want to keep the money to increase their profits…….I’m not worried about it. I’m not losing any sleep over that one. If they want to move out, move out.”

“This law comes at simply too great of a cost for businesses to comply, now it appears that this law may also come at too great of a cost for the state to implement,” says John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association. “This analysis clearly shows that retailers and consumers are not the only ones being negatively impacted by this law.”

Rebekka Rea, executive director of the Retail Gift Card Association says, “The law was clearly intended to raise revenue for the state, but it may now have the complete opposite effect, and the state will be losing a significant amount of revenue.”


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