Tax-free holiday brings out shoppers [The Frederick News-Post, Md.]By Danielle E. Gaines and Ed Waters Jr., The Frederick News-Post, Md.McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Aug. 13--Maryland's tax-free holiday started Sunday, bringing county residents out to capitalize on back-to-school deals.
Jennifer Liu of Frederick was shopping with her family along Urbana Pike on Sunday, grabbing items for her three boys to take back to school with them. The family waits for tax-free week each year to save a little extra cash, she said.
"I think it's a very good way to try to save money, especially with three boys," Liu said. "It helps a lot if you buy a lot."
The family made stops at Sports Authority, Target, Staples and other stores in the area, she said.
Tax-free week was created during the 2007 special session of the Maryland General Assembly and will start on the second Sunday of August each year, unless the legislature decides to get rid of the program.
State Comptroller Peter Franchot said the week gives most merchants a 15 to 20 percent boost in sales, and is the second busiest part of the year for many, behind the winter holiday season.
According to Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns the Francis Scott Key Mall, families with K-12 students are expected to spend about $688 on back-to-school items -- primarily clothing -- this year, up from $603 last year.
College students and their families are expected to spend about $907, up from $808 last year, according to PREIT.
While the state loses the tax revenue, the benefits to Maryland residents and merchants outweighs that loss, Franchot said at an event in Frederick last week.
Through August, FSK Mall is offering a back-to-school promotion to customers who spend at least $100. Shoppers can bring their receipts to the mall information booth and get a pack of school supplies: Two notebooks, two spiral notepads and 12 pencils. That promotion will run through Sept. 4.
Also through Sept. 4, anyone who "likes" the mall on its Facebook site could win a $2,500 shopping spree.
The mall's JC Penney Salon is offering free haircuts for students K-6th grade through August.
Salon manager Barbara Montgomery said the shop's 48 stylists had already completed more than a thousand haircuts by Sunday.
This was Hill's first year shopping during tax-free week in Maryland, and she felt it was worth the wait. "I think I probably will make it a tradition," she said, loading a bag into the car.
Not everyone was as lucky finding deals.
Niranjan Lokeshwarappa and Pushpa Nandibasappa were investigating their receipt outside Target on Sunday evening. It showed no savings from the tax-free sale, which the couple had hoped would apply to their children's school supplies.
"We came today instead of yesterday for the tax-free day. We were going to do school shopping anyhow," Lokeshwarappa said. "But we didn't get anything tax-free."
School supplies are not covered in the tax-free program, which applies primarily to clothing items priced at $100 or less.
Lokeshwarappa said they'd already purchased school clothes for the children this year, but plan to hold out until the tax holiday next year.
"It is a good program," he said.
An extensive list of clothes, shoes and other items such as adult diapers, coats and fishing vests can be bought this week without paying Maryland's 6 percent sales tax. Each item must be priced at $100 or less.
A list of exempt and taxable items is available on the comptroller's website at www.marylandtaxes.com or by calling the Taxpayer Service Section at (410) 260-7980 or (800) MD-TAXES.
Tax-free week lasts through midnight on Aug. 18.
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