- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Marylanders ready to stock up on new clothes for the fall and winter will have a reprieve from the state's 5 percent sales tax for a week beginning Aug. 10.
The tax-free week for articles of clothing costing less than $100 was timed to coincide with the back-to-school buying season.
Retail merchants hope it will encourage Marylanders to shop at home instead of going out of state looking for bargains.
Tom Saquella, president of the Maryland Retail Merchants Association, said his members have high hopes for the tax-free week.
"It's no secret that sales have not been what retailers would have liked the first two quarters," Mr. Saquella said. "We're hoping that the combination of the tax-free week, as well as the federal income-tax refund checks, will give a boost to retailers."
A law suspending the sales tax on items of clothing, including shoes, that cost less than $100 was enacted during the 2000 session of the state legislature. But lawmakers delayed the tax-free week until this year to allow the state Comptroller's Office to prepare the necessary regulations and paperwork.
Fiscal analysts estimated that sales-tax revenue would drop by about $6 million as a result of the tax-free week, less than three-tenths of 1 percent of total state sales-tax collections, said Christine Duray, spokeswoman for Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.
Mr. Schaefer is using his office to promote the tax-free week.
Miss Duray said the tax break should help retailers as well as "low- to moderate-income families who can't afford to travel out of state to get that additional tax benefit."
Clothing retailers complain they have lost sales to stores in Delaware, which does not have a sales tax, and Pennsylvania, which does not tax clothing.
Mr. Saquella said his association members, along with shopping malls, are planning special promotions and advertising to make sure customers know about the tax-free week.
A 5 percent savings on items valued at less than $100 may not have much effect on shoppers looking for one or two items, but it should be attractive to families stocking up on clothing for the school year and the cold weather to come, Mr. Saquella said.
"Hopefully, it will help us recapture what we call the family clothing business," Mr. Saquella said. "That's the business we seem to be losing to other states."
The law enacted in 2000 suspended the sales tax only for the one week this year, but retail merchants hope it will be made permanent with at least one tax-free week each year.
That's what happened in New York state, which made the law permanent this year after testing it on a temporary basis for several years, Mr. Saquella said.

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