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[RICHARD] Sales Tax Free Weekend: Yea Or Nay?

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The Massachusetts Legislature is expected to initiate discussions tomorrow on whether or not to revive the popular sales tax free weekend.

Most every year since 2004, with the exception of 2009 and last year, lawmakers have granted a reprieve of the 6.25% sales tax for most retail purchases for a two day weekend in August.   Tight state finances in 2009 and 2016 derailed the sales tax free weekend, a favorite with shoppers and retailers alike.  With the Commonwealth facing a 400 million dollar plus budget shortfall and declining revenues, the sales tax free weekend is no certainty this year either.

While groups such as the Massachusetts Association of Retailers and others support the sales tax free weekend as a way to boost retail sales during an otherwise difficult time of year, the idea has become less and less popular with elected officials who say it costs the state tens of millions of dollars in lost sales revenues.

Retailers say the one weekend in August can pump some $400 to $500 million dollars into their sleepy, summer cash registers while acting as an unofficial start to the back to school and Christmas shopping seasons.

Most shoppers would turn their noses up to a 10% off sale but for some reason take delight in saving 6.25% at the expense of the government.  They crowd the stores.  When shoppers are out they tend to fill the restaurants  and pubs as well making it a profitable weekend for all.

Sales tax free weekend is a boost for business and a break for consumers.  Government leaders should not punish everyone else for their inability to better manage the Commonwealth’s financial affairs.

If the public wants and supports sale tax weekend than it should be the law of the land without this annual kabuki dance over whether or not to allow it.  Remember, the politicians work for us and not the other way around.

Editor’s Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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