It’s time to shop locally and save on state sales tax

Aug 15, 2019 by

Published August 16, 2019

MELROSE — At Melrose Oriental Rug and Marty’s Furniture, you can save a bundle this weekend. The same goes for Carpet Trades, Maestranzi Brothers, Boston Appliance and Gardner Mattress, to name just a few more. The annual sales tax holiday is here and for some, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Shoppers have already been scoping out what they want to purchase without paying the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. The two-day tax suspension Saturday and Sunday will allow consumers here to avoid paying the sales tax on most retail items — excluding food and drink at restaurants — that are priced less than $2,500.

National Federation of Independent Business State Director Christopher Carlozzi described the upcoming event, the latest in a Massachusetts tradition, as “an excellent opportunity to support the small businesses that support our communities every year.”

“With families focused on back to school shopping, holding the sales tax holiday in the traditionally slower retail month of August is perfect for small businesses,” Carlozzi said in a statement. “By shopping at businesses on Main Street, consumers are supporting their local communities and bolstering local entrepreneurs while saving tax dollars and taking advantage of additional promotions.”

The weekend sales tax exemption doesn’t apply to anything the consumer would have to register with the state. That means buyers will pay sales tax on cars, boats, motorcycles and the like. 

Massachusetts has long offered a sales tax holiday during a summer weekend as a way to boost local businesses, though it did not have one in place in 2016 or 2017.

In May 2018, the Democrat-led Senate voted against a sales tax holiday, with some members saying the lost revenue could be used for important needs such as education and roadway maintenance.

Later that summer, facing a potential ballot question that would have reduced the sales tax to 5 percent and likely cutting revenue by more than $1 billion, legislative and administration leaders agreed in the so-called “grand bargain” not to lower the sales tax but to suspend it for one August weekend every year.

The Legislature has the power under the agreement to set a date by June 15, and if not, DOR then chooses when it will take place. This year’s suspension will be the first under that new process.

Originally, DOR told restaurants that meals would be included in the sales-tax suspension for the first time ever, but Gov. Charlie Baker could not find agreement with Democratic leaders to include alcohol as well.

Industry leaders raised concerns about the feasibility of taxing alcohol but not food, and in response, the Legislature quickly approved a Baker budget amendment earlier this month that will require all restaurant sales be taxed fully.

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