- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2002

The District is beginning its third tax-free shopping holiday today without competition from neighboring states.

In an effort to lure shoppers to the District, the city has eliminated the 5.75 percent sales tax on all clothing, shoes and school supplies costing less than $100 per item until Aug. 18.

Unlike last year's back-to-school tax holiday, Washington is the only local shopping district offering a deal.

"We are the only game in town, so we expect to draw our friends in from the suburbs to shop in our stores," said City Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, who introduced the legislation.

Last year, Maryland offered a tax-free shopping week from Aug. 10 to Aug. 16 overlapping on one weekend with the District's 10-day event.

This year, citing budget problems, Maryland's General Assembly did not pass the legislation. Virginia has never had a tax-free shopping event.

The District joins nine states offering tax exemptions on purchases this year.

The tax holidays are intended to boost retail sales and encourage residents to shop locally. Area shoppers are tempted by year-round tax-free clothes shopping in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Schwartz is optimistic that this year's event will be popular in light of a successful tax-free holiday in November that resulted in some local stores nearly doubling their sales.

Not all retailers say the tax-free holiday will be positive, though, especially because many shoppers aren't aware it is starting today.

"We had a disappointing sale last year because not many people knew about it, and we aren't expecting a big success over the next week," said Farooq Matin, store manager of Payless ShoeSource at 1120 G St. in Northwest. "People just aren't being made aware of this relief that saves them money until today."

Stores have been handing out fliers touting the 10-day event. And the city is running advertisements today in daily newspapers and will have ads in smaller weekly papers next week, Mrs. Schwartz said.

"This is the first I've heard of this tax holiday, but I'm definitely going to come back [to Hechts] tomorrow to spend some money," District resident Joyce Berry said yesterday.

After learning about the tax holiday, one Clinton woman put back three pairs of Payless shoes she was going to buy her for two nieces, saving about $2 in sales tax.

"I didn't hear about this until just now, but you can bet I'll be taking my nieces shopping tomorrow and probably will buy more than what I bought for them last summer," said the woman, who didn't want to give her name. "I did shop during the tax break last year. I just forgot they were having it around this time."

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