Taking a break from the 6% solution
Some might call it “Maryland Pretends to Be Delaware Week,” but Comptroller Peter Franchot is fully supportive of it. That’s because it benefits businesses while saving consumers some money at the same time.
We’re talking about Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, which starts this coming Sunday, Aug. 13, and lasts through Saturday, Aug. 19. During this period, selected clothing and footwear items are exempt from Maryland’s 6 percent sales tax.
It’s well timed for back-to-school shoppers in Charles County. Thanks to an executive order last year by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) — in perfect bipartisan lockstep with the Democratic comptroller’s urging — most public schools in the state now open the day after Labor Day. That gives shoppers plenty of time to try on new outfits. Students need new clothes and shoes, and families can save money. Sounds like a win-win situation.
Qualifying articles of clothing $100 or less are exempt from the sales tax no matter how many items are purchased at a single time. For example, a shopper could buy two qualifying items for even $95 each and would still receive the waived sales tax despite the total amount exceeding $100. And if a business is selling an item that doesn’t qualify for the tax exemption, that retailer can still offer the items without the sales tax as long as it pays the tax owed to the state for the customer.
Also, if an item is purchased during the tax-free week but is returned after the week finishes, no additional tax will be due if the item is exchanged for the same item but is a different size or color. If the item is returned for store credit on the purchase of a different item, the customer will pay the full sales tax for the new item. If the item is purchased before the tax-free week and is returned during the week for store credit on different items, the customer does not have to pay the sales tax.
New this year is the addition of backpacks and book bags to the list of tax-exempt items, although it only applies to the first $40 of the purchase. See www. marylandtaxes.com for an extensive list of what qualifies and what doesn’t.
In another twist to Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, Franchot has joined with the Maryland Retailers Association in a contest on social media. There will be two winners statewide. One will get a $1,500 scholarship to any Maryland university college or trade school; the other will get a $500 scholarship. Shoppers are encouraged to follow Shop Maryland Tax Free on Facebook and @shopmdtaxfree on Twitter and Instagram. Take a photo in the spirit of the week and submit it with a creative caption, using the hashtag #shopmdtaxfree. The MRA will judge the entries and pick the two scholarship winners.
“This year, Marylanders can not only save money during tax-free week, but they have the opportunity to win a big scholarship, while supporting local businesses, all with a few clicks on their phone,” Franchot said in a statement.
It’s been a decade now since the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation in a special session allowing for a tax-free week to occur the second week of August every year. And the comptroller’s office and the MRA have been pleased to see the results.
So for those who have put off back-toschool clothes shopping until now, this might turn out to be the one time it pays to procrastinate.