Friday, August 05, 2011

Tax-Free Shopping Revisited

In 2006 and 2008, I wrote blog posts about Virginia's tax-free holiday for back-to-school shoppers.  The first such holiday was in August 2006, which means that this year's "celebration" is the sixth consecutive one.

Last night, I published an article about the tax-free holiday weekend on, which made the argument that the lengthy list of tax-exempt and non-exempt items is inconsistent, confusing, and needlessly complicated.  It would be better, I said, for the General Assembly to simplify the whole matter by declaring that all retail items priced at $100 or less should be tax-free during the tax-free holiday period.  (Both the 72 hour window and the $100 limit are arbitrary.  Each of those numbers could be bigger or smaller.)

The article caught the attention of Jim Hanchett, news director at CBS19 TV in Charlottesville (part of the Charlottesville Newsplex, which also includes the local Fox and ABC affiliates).  He assigned reporter Frankie Jupiter to do a story on the topic, which included an interview with me conducted at the Ix Building studios of the Newsplex.

Here's the video from tonight's 5:00 o'clock newscast:

Jupiter also interviewed a local sporting-goods store owner, and he pointed out that swimming trunks are tax-exempt, but swimming goggles are not. (I had pointed out, in my article and the interview, that dancer's clothing, like leotards and tights, is tax-exempt, but ballet and tap shoes are not.) Jupiter said he found the list of exempt and non-exempt items from a link in my article and was amazed at the complexity and inconsistency.

Some excerpts from the print version of the interview:
The first day of school is right around the corner, which means back to school shopping, and this weekend in Virginia you can do yours tax free.

But Rick Sincere, a local blogger, says the rules on what is tax free and what isn't are way too complicated.

"We have these weird combinations where an athletic supporter is tax exempted but athletic shoes with cleats are not."

* * *

"A lot of the things on the list that are tax exempt have no relation to school at all. Wedding dresses, now if you can find a wedding dress for less than $100 you deserve a lot of credit," said Sincere.

And items such as printer paper, printer ink and zip drives are not tax exempt.

"Simplify it, simplify it, simplify it."

Sincere suggests tax breaks for anything $100 or less across the board, not just school.

"Easy to understand, much easier for our retailers who have to program their computers."

My article for is headlined "Virginia’s school supplies ‘tax-free holiday’ more complicated than necessary" and can also be found through Google News.
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