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Cecil Whig: Franchot promotes tax-free week

Cecil Whig (Special from Star Democrat)

Franchot promotes tax-free week

August 1, 2017

By Josh Bollinger

EASTON — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot was in Easton Monday promoting the state’s upcoming Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, which starts Aug. 13 and runs through Aug. 19.

Franchot, speaking at Sailor on Harrison Street, said the state’s 6 percent sales tax will be waived on any items of clothing that cost $100 or cheaper, and backpacks that cost $40 or cheaper.

He called the tax-free week “a big help for families that are purchasing back-to-school clothing, but frankly, it is open to anyone, adults or otherwise” who are shopping.

“We underline (tax-free week) because we’re sick and tired of people from Delaware and Pennsylvania and Virginia gloating over the fact that they (claim to) have lower taxes than ... the State of Maryland,” Franchot said. “For one week, we’re going to see Virginia plates and Delaware plates and Pennsylvania plates all up and down the Shore and all around the state.”

Franchot advocated Monday for the tax-free week to be broadened, “because we find that there’s no real revenue loss to the state, because there’s so much impulse buying of other items that are not covered” under the tax-free week deal.

Mark Greene, owner of Sailor, a downtown men’s and women’s clothing store, said his shop gets a lot of vacationers and tourists.

“They are shocked when they come to the register and say, ‘There’s taxes on clothing?’” Greene said.

The promotional event was attended by local and state dignitaries. Speaking to Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot, Franchot said the legislature should think creatively on how to possibly expand the tax-free week and derive more revenue primarily from out-of-state shoppers.

“Our district borders the State of Delaware, District 37B. There are towns as you get closer to Delaware, the towns become more sparse, and as you cross the line, holy shmoly, it’s just vibrant with economic activity and the tax code is driving a lot of that,” Mautz said.

“In the House of Delegates, when we talk about tax reform, every time it comes up, the momentum is the other way, it’s to increase taxes, and we’re constantly coming up with different ways to try to improve our tax code in Maryland,” he said.

For the sake of possible tax reform, Mautz said it’s important that people tax advantage of tax-free week to “show the people in Annapolis” and demonstrate to lawmakers that the week is effective, or else “they’re going to continue to push back on all of our proposals.”

“We really need to get the message out to go out and take advantage of this, because it is a big deal and our tax code in Maryland is an impediment to business,” Mautz said. “There are many ways we can reform it, but unless we can show that these reforms are working, we don’t have any argument in Annapolis.”

Franchot suggested an economic study be completed on tax-free week “that says where we think the tax-free week could be broadened.” Any change to tax-free week would have to be approved by the state legislature.

“There’s a nice sweet spot balance here. It’s not Democrat or Republican, it’s just a darn good idea,” Franchot said.

Greene suggested the state start a “graduated-type” of sales tax, one that charges different items, like clothing, at lower rates. “That would help out a lot for a lot of us,” he said.

For the first time, in conjunction with the tax-free week, the Maryland Retailers Association is hosting a contest that will see two winners receive $1,500 and $500 scholarships, respectively, to any Maryland university, college or trade school.

Leading up to and during the annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, which takes place August 13 to 19, shoppers should like or follow the official social media pages on Facebook (Shop Maryland Tax Free), Twitter (@shopmdtaxfree) and Instagram (@shopmdtaxfree).

Then during the tax-free week, take a picture, write a creative caption and use #shopmdtaxfree to submit an entry on any or all of the social media platforms.

After tax-free week ends, the Maryland Retailers Association, which is providing the scholarships, will select the two entries that best reflect the spirit of Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.

“It’s probably the easiest scholarship that anybody is going to get this year,” Maryland Retailers Association Legislative Assistant Maddy Voytek said Monday at Sailors.

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