Sales-tax holiday for Maryland?

Back to school: Week-long tax relief for buying clothing should help families with modest incomes.

February 13, 2000

IT'S ONE of those "win-win" situations. The General Assembly can help both apparel merchants and customers by passing a bill to create a temporary sales-tax holiday on clothing purchases.

This would be a highly visible -- and popular -- form of tax relief . The impact would be felt by every Marylander who wants to save money while shopping.

The only down side is that the plan would cost the state between $4 million and $6 million. But even Comptroller William Donald Schaefer supports the tax holiday, despite the loss of state revenue. In a year when Maryland has a $1 billion surplus, such a modest, one-time tax holiday before school starts in the fall can be easily absorbed.

Other states have found sales-tax holidays enormously successful. In New York, clothing and footwear sales soared an average of 41 percent in that week. Enthusiasm was so great among merchants and shoppers that New York is permanently eliminating its sales tax on clothing and footwear priced at less than $100 on March 1.

Low-income and moderate-income families benefit most from such a tax holiday. That's why the National Black Caucus of State Legislators supports sales-tax holidays tied to back-to-school shopping periods.

Maryland's tax break would occur Aug. 11-17It would apply to clothing and footwear costing less than $100.

Right now, Maryland is at a disadvantage when it comes to clothing sales. Pennsylvania exempts apparel from its sales tax. Delaware has no sales tax at all. Back-to-school shoppers jam outlet malls in those states in August.

Everyone loves a bargain. Why not let Maryland merchants offer shoppers a 5 percent discount on clothes purchases, even if it would last just seven days??

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