As fiscal losses mount at the local level and the back to school season begins, the discussion surrounding tax free holidays is building. Some states view these holidays a stimulus to help local businesses and consumers while others are clearly seeing incremental sales tax as a source of revenue. As we head into the critical back-to-school selling season, it’s important to understand what’s different this year vs. last from both a timing and magnitude perspective. And, with June sales reported tomorrow, we expect to hear the first indications of how tax free holidays may be expected to impact July and August results. In an effort to capture the various shifts in timing and program parameters versus last year, we present the following graphics below. Here are a few noteworthy observations:
- There are typically 3 different types of sales tax holidays: hurricane preparedness, clothing and school supplies, and energy efficient appliances. For the purposes of this post we are focused on the clothing and school supplies.
- The top 5 states most exposed to teens in the 15-19 year-old demographic are CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, representing 37% of the entire domestic teen market. However, only three offer a tax free holiday (TX, NY, & FL).
- The two biggest teen states (CA & IL) that don’t offer the tax free holiday have some of the highest state sales taxes in the country. CA and IL are also #1 and #4 respectively on a list for highest projected budget gaps as a percent of the state’s general fund budget.
- So far, FL and MD are the only two states adding events vs. this time last year. They are adding 3 and 7 day tax-free events respectively.
- GA, Washington DC, and South Carolina have either repealed or suspended their respective tax free holidays.
- NY just repealed it’s tax-free status on shoes and apparel under $110, however this will not take effect until October 1st. The suspension will last until April 1st, 2011, at which point a $55 tax-free threshold will be established for a year. Then, in 2012, the original exemption will be reinstated.
With municipalities struggling to meet budgets, we should expect continued contraction in this list of tax free events as well as growth in efforts to add or boost sales tax overall.