Shoppers awaiting sales tax holiday

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 27, 2009

Twelve-year-old Brianna Lyons needs new clothes before headingback to Bogue Chitto Attendance Center for the start of the 2009-10school year next month, and her father is waiting to buy them atjust the right time – next weekend.

Calvin Lyons – like many other Mississippians – will takeadvantage of the 2009 Sales Tax Holiday next weekend, when the 7percent sales tax on certain articles of clothing and footwear lessthan $100 per item will be waived.

“It’s about time,” Lyons said. “I think it will only be rightfor us to get a break every now and then.”

The tax-free weekend begins Friday, July 31, at 12:01 a.m. andends at midnight the following night. The tax on each item lessthan $100 will be waived, regardless of the total of all itemspurchases.

A list of items exempt from sales tax during the event may befound online at the Mississippi State Tax Commission’s Web site atwww.mstc.state.ms.us.

The two-day event is the first of its kind for Mississippi, andwas created with unanimous support in the Legislature this session.Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and both Carolinas havesimilar back-to-school tax-free weekends, with South Carolinastarting the trend in 2000.

The states all have different twists on their tax-free weekends,and some have multiple weekends. North Carolina’s tax-free weekendis most geared toward students, with a list of eligible productsincluding computers, instructional material, school supplies andeven sports equipment. Alabama’s list of eligible items is similar,and includes computers, school supplies and books.

Mississippi’s new tax-free weekend, however, is only forclothing and footwear – a fact that left some students’ parents alittle raw.

“School supplies would be great because that’s what you spendmost of your money on,” said Amy LaRue, who is getting ready tosend 17-year-old Cecily LaRue back to Enterprise Attendance Center.”I think it’s a good step, but I wish they would go ahead and doall of it – computers, software, calculators …”

Local legislators said the Magnolia State’s tax-free weekendcould be expanded to include more school-related items in thefuture, but agreed the first event was a good place to start.

“I hate that we could not get (more items) included, but this isthe beginning and I hope next year we’ll add to it once we see whata success this is for people getting their kids ready to go back toschool,” said District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven. “Sevenpercent sales tax off any item is a start.”

Currie said she would like to see the law expanded to includecomputers, software and more expensive items needed by collegestudents. District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said thestate should have two tax holidays – one for the start of theschool year and a second around Christmas.

“Man, after about 12 years we finally get something,” he said.”If you want to sit there all day and wait until you get somethingperfect, you’ll absolutely get nothing. It’s something we’ll beable to step back, take a look at and hopefully do better.”

Some back-to-school shoppers would like to see the tax-freeholiday held earlier in the year.

Sherry Lowe, a teacher at Bogue Chitto, said many parents havealready completed school shopping. She pointed out thatschool-specific supply lists have been available inside Wal-Martfor weeks.

“School starts next week – why did they wait until three daysbefore school starts?” she said.

Mt. Zion’s Diane Watson agreed that more advertising on thestate’s behalf would help promote the tax-free weekend. She saidmany parents weren’t aware of the event and its potential savingsfor shoppers.

Watson also made the case for expanding the exemption list, butshe – like thousands of others – will take advantage of the eventnonetheless. With four children headed for Loyd Star AttendanceCenter, she said every little bit helps.

“After all, people will drive across town to save 3 cents on agallon of gas,” she said.