Sales tax holiday raises hopes

TUPELO – While Dee Medlock couldn’t be more excited about Friday and Saturday, Tracy Gunter isn’t sure what the excitement is all about.
Medlock, store manager of Buckle at The Mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo, said she’s bringing in extra workers to handle what she anticipates to be bigger-than-usual crowds for back-to-school shopping.
That’s because on those two days, clothing and shoes priced under $100 will be tax-free, thanks to a bill passed by the Mississippi Legislature earlier this year.
“Some people have already started shopping,” Medlock said. “We have layaway here, and some people are putting away their items and getting them during the tax holiday.”
Gunter, on the other hand, hasn’t heard a thing about the holiday. She finished much of her shopping last week and wishes she had known about it.
“I wished I had known about it,” she said. “I’ll probably go shopping anyway.”
The National Retail Federation expects the average family with students in K-12 to spend $548.72 on school merchandise, a drop of about 7.7 percent from last year. Total spending on back to school is projected to reach more than $17.4 billion.
The NRF also said families will spend about $204.67 on clothing and accessories, $93.59 on shoes and $82.62 on school supplies.
With the last weekend in July traditionally a heavy BTS shopping weekend anyway, The Mall at Barnes Crossing General Manager Jeff Snyder said the tax holiday will only add to the excitement
“We’re approaching this like it’s another Black Friday,” Snyder said, referring to the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree that has traditionally been one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Ready for the rush
At The Corner Shoe Store at the West Main Shopping Center, store owner Tommy Lee and his daughter, Juli Palmer, also anticipate a big weekend.
“We’ve had a lot of customers ask about the holiday,” Palmer said. “We’re really excited about it, too.”
The store sells shoes, as well as clothing, backbacks, lunchboxes, toys and other accessories. While the tax holiday list is limited to shoes and clothing, Lee and Palmer said it’s a good start.
They say that the tax break will allow customers to shop for other items, which could be a boon to retailers.
“We have no limits on purchases,” Lee said with a laugh.
At Doodles, also located in the West Main Shopping Center, owner Monia Beasley said if the last three weeks are any indication, the weekend could get hectic.
“If there’s a recession, then we don’t know about it because we’ve been really busy,” she said. “I’m not complaining at all.”
Beasley said she plans to stay open a little later on Friday and Saturday in hopes that the tax holiday will entice a few more shoppers than usual.
“I don’t think it will be anything like our Christmas in July sale or the week of Christmas, but it is notoriously a busy weekend anyway,” she said.

Limited list
The items that are exempt from the state tax on Friday and Saturday is limited, covering only clothing and footwear as defined by the state.
A list of the exempt and non-exempt items, plus details of the program, are available on the Mississippi State Tax Commission’s Web site at www.mstc.state.ms.us/.
According to the state, clothing that is tax-free include shirts, dresses, pants, coats, jackets belts and hats. Most shoes are tax-free, except for skis, swim fins, roller blades and skates.
But shoppers hoping to get a break on electronics are out of luck. And the state said accessories including jewelry, handbags, luggage, umbrellas, wallets, watches, backpacks, briefcases and similar items are taxable as well.
The sales tax break applies to each item that costs less than $100, regardless of how many items are sold at the same time. Items costing more than $100 are subject to the tax.
The Tax Commission gives this example:
“A customer purchases two shirts at $50 each, a pair of slacks at $75, and a pair of shoes at $110. No sales tax is due on the sale of the two shirts and the pair of slacks at a cost of $175, even though the combined cost exceeds the $100 threshold. However, sales tax is due on the entire $110 for the shoes since they exceed the $100 threshold.”
Kathy Waterbury, director of communications for the State Tax Commission, said the phones at the agency’s offices have been ringing off the hook. Retailers and consumers alike have been calling for details.
And answering one commonly asked question, Waterbury said the tax holiday is not optional.
“Retailers are responsible for collecting the sales tax as well as ensuring that their systems, whether electronic or manual, are ready for the two-day sales tax holiday,” she said.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal