Stores ready for tax holiday

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 30, 2009

Local merchants are rolling out their wares and preparing to goit alone for Mississippi’s first sales tax-free weekend beginningFriday morning, saying information on the two-day event has beenscarce for business owners and shoppers alike.

“I think it’s going to be mass confusion,” said Edward Rushing,owner of Rushing’s Boots and Shoe Shop on Jackson Street. “I feellike there’s going to be some poor cashiers taking a good verbalabusing this weekend.”

Rushing is concerned that many shoppers will expect the state’s7 percent sales tax to be waived on all items in a store, ignorantof the long list of eligible and non-eligible items provided on theMississippi State Tax Commission’s Web site The tax-free holiday, created this year bythe Legislature, exempts sales tax on only clothing and footwearthat is $100 per item or less, while many accessories – and evencertain types of apparel and footwear – are not eligible.

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The weekend begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ends at midnightSaturday. The sales tax-free weekend was signed into law thisspring, and while news of the event has been available, manymerchants contend that not enough has been done to alert thepublic.

“People are so misinformed,” Rushing said. “I hope it generatessome business, but is the business gonna offset the confusion? Theydefinitely need to do more to try to inform the public and themerchants.”

Tax commission spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said posting theinformation on the commission’s Web site was the best option forgetting the information out. With state revenue down and stateagencies’ budgets cut, she said mailing information to the state’s85,000 businesses was not an option.

“Pretty much for this holiday, we relied on the news media -which has pretty much flooded the market this week with information- as well as the retail industry itself,” Waterbury said. “This isa holiday that benefits them as well, because it’s getting folksout and shopping. We felt like they would advertise, and theyhave.”

Waterbury said the commission is encouraging business owners toprint the online guide for the sales tax holiday and have themavailable at the cash register.

“This is the first holiday, so there’s going to be questionsfrom everybody,” she said. “When you start something new, that’sjust part of it.”

Macy Taylor’s co-owner Laura McDaniel plans to have the list ofeligible and non-eligible items available at the cash register, butshe still believes more should have been done to alert the public.She said she has been e-mailing, texting and calling her regularclients to remind them of the sales tax holiday.

“Even if all they contacted was every town’s local chamber ofcommerce,” she said. “I just hope enough people know about it tocome in on Friday and Saturday.

Judy’s Shoes owner Judy Hart will also have the list availableat her store, but she still believes the weekend is not going to be”real clear.”

“If the state tax commission is going to do this, they need tosend us a list,” she said. “Tell us exactly what we need to doinstead of having us dig for information.”

Despite the potential confusion, however, Hart and other retailoutlet owners are planning to make the most of the weekend.

“This is going to be an introduction to what other states aredoing,” Hart said.

The sales tax holiday works in Texas, said Beyond the Rainbowco-owner Bonnie Beach. She said she hears praise for the tax-freeweekend from Texans when she goes to market in Dallas.

“I think it will be a benefit to the customer,” she said. “Wehave a clearance going on anyway on all spring and summermerchandise.”

Repetitions Manager Elaina Andrews said all the items in herstore will be marked down 10 percent to draw customers in thisweekend.

“Ninety percent of what we have is clothing and shoes, so prettymuch everything in here qualifies,” she said.

Sue Golmon, whose new Golmon’s Outlet will have its grandopening just hours before the tax holiday begins, is also preparedfor – and hoping for – big business. She said her store’saccountant has been closely monitoring the rules of the tax holidayand communicating with the state tax commission.

“We won’t have any problems at all,” Golmon said. “We just wanteveryone to come shop.”