There will be a sales tax holiday in Massachusetts this summer. State lawmakers have agreed to designate the weekend of August 14-15 as this year's tax-free weekend. Massachusetts has waived the 6.25 percent sales tax on most retail items that cost less than $2,500 for most of the last several years.

In 2018, lawmakers agreed to cement the sales tax-free weekend into law as part of a legislative deal that will gradually set the Commonwealth's minimum wage at $15 per hour and create a family and medical leave program. The sales tax holiday was a concession to business leaders who argued that a higher minimum wage and the leave program would place an unfair burden on business.

The sales tax holiday costs the Commonwealth millions of dollars in tax revenue each year, but it drives consumers into retail establishments during a time of year when brick-and-mortar businesses are struggling the most. It actually has become the unofficial start of the back-to-school and Christmas holiday shopping seasons for many. Merchants have noted a marked and steady increase in sales each week following the tax-free weekend.

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Truth be told, consumers could probably do a lot better without the sales tax holiday. Sure, they get to save 6.25 percent but would probably save at least 10 percent on the same merchandise without the holiday. I suppose the idea of depriving the government of their tax dollars is appealing to many. So be it. Whatever works.

Massachusetts shoppers need also remember that local mom-and-pops drop the sales tax during the sales tax holiday weekend and that they could sure benefit from your patronage. The box stores are wonderful, but they don't offer the personal service and the unique gift items offered by many local merchants.

This sales tax-free weekend, shop often, but remember to shop local too. It would mean a lot to your local community.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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