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Tax waiver can cutback-to-school costs

July 23, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Usually when lawmakers create a new holiday, they do it with great fanfare, so that the people who receive the benefit will remember who provided it.

Not so with the three-day back-to-school tax holidays created by the West Virginia Legislature. Passed in April, the Aug. 2-4 event is fast approaching, but state officials are only now pushing retailers to take advantage of the retailing possibilities it provides.

When Gov. Bob Wise signed the legislation, it was hailed as a benefit for low- and moderate-income families facing the need to buy their children back-to-school clothes and school supplies, provided that no single item costs more than $100.

The three-day holiday was also envisioned as a way to bring some extra business to West Virginia retailers located along the state's borders. But a number of retailers interviewed by The Associated Press last week said they weren't aware of the event.

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That's a bad sign, because not only does it leave stores little time to work up their promotional campaigns, it also threatens to cause confusion if clerks aren't adequately trained - or cash registers reprogrammed - so that customers aren't charged for items that should be exempt.

How much could shoppers save? About $6 on every $100 spent.

Is the extra effort justified? If you're going to buy the items anyway and you don't burn up $6 worth of gasoline traveling somewhere to get the tax break, it's worth it.

If the state decides to continue this tax holiday, we recommend that some extra effort go into the promotion of it. Reminders could go out with businesses' state income tax forms and with applications for business license renewals.

And it wouldn't hurt if local elected officials got into the act, promoting the idea during the meetings and when they meet with constituents. Alerting citizens to the good things government is doing for them is seldom a bad idea.

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