Capitol Connection: Tax Free Week is Not Enough

August 19, 2014

This week marks “Sales Tax Free Week” in Connecticut – a much anticipated and timely opportunity for families ready for some back-to-school shopping.

While I always welcome any kind of tax relief, I don’t think Sales Tax Free Week does enough for our families. I believe that every week should be sales tax free.

The sales tax holiday was first enacted by the General Assembly in 2000 as part of a large tax package. The holiday only exempts clothing and shoes under $300 from the sales tax. It also excludes athletic equipment, sports uniforms and certain accessories such as handbags, backpacks, wallets and watches. It does not include school supplies, electronics or other personal items.

While other states have more expansive tax free holidays, Connecticut lags behind. Massachusetts, for example, exempts all products under $2500 for one weekend, enabling people to truly purchase all back-to-school items their kids might need – from printers to paper to dorm room furniture. Florida, on the other hand, has a lower price cap for clothing, but also exempts school supplies under $15 and computers under $750.

Connecticut’s week of exemptions is helpful, but can and should include more items that families need.

Even further, I think Connecticut needs to reduce taxes every week of the year.

It is not fair that the state gets to tack on extra fees to essential items our families need. These taxes affect people from all income levels who work hard to clothe, care for, and educate their family members – and they deserve better.

It was not long ago that all clothing and footwear under $50 was tax free every day in Connecticut. But in July 2011, that exemption was eliminated by state leaders.

Not only did the state start taxing all clothing and footwear, it also increased the sales tax to 6.35%, instituted a 7% luxury tax, and even started taxing consignment store purchases just like other retail locations.

Moving forward, we need to continue pushing for lower taxes and eliminating the sales tax on necessities.

We must eliminate taxes on clothing purchased from consignment stores, Goodwill stores, Salvation Army locations, etc. immediately.

We also have to make sure the governor does not try to delay restoring our tax exemption on clothing and shoes under $50 again. Come July 1, 2015, our sales tax exemption is scheduled to return. And when it does, we have to work together to protect and strengthen it.

I hope your family is able to take advantage of this year’s Sales Tax Free Week. And I hope that in future years, more relief will be in sight. Just one week of relief is not nearly enough.