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Comptroller touts upcoming tax-free week in Maryland

August 07, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • At Premium Outlets at Hagerstown on Wednesday, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot discusses the upcoming Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot visited Premium Outlets at Hagerstown on Wednesday to provide information about the annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, which he views as one of the state’s most popular times to shop — second only to Christmas.

From Sunday, Aug. 11, through Saturday, Aug. 17, as back-to-school shopping moves into full swing, the state will not collect sales tax on clothing items and shoes that cost less than $100.

“This tax-free week is, next to the Christmas holidays, probably the most popular shopping period in the state,” Franchot said. “It’s incredibly important for retailers.”

During the designated week, shoppers will be able to buy an unlimited number of articles of clothing and shoes without paying the state’s 6 percent sales tax, provided each item costs less than $100.

Franchot said the state loses $5 million in tax revenue as a result of the no-tax period.

“It’s the best $5 million that we’ll spend the entire year because it gives our consumers and small businesses a welcome break from this tsunami of tax increases, toll increases, fee increases, utility increases,” he said. “Everything is going up.”

Maryland’s tax-free week is a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2007 and implemented in 2010.

Franchot said he hopes the tax break eventually will go beyond clothing to include school supplies.

The National Retail Federation reported that this year, the average person with children in grade school is expected to spend $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year, according to a news release from the Maryland Retailers Association.

Association President Patrick Donoho, who also was at the Premium Outlets event, described the week as a “jump-start” to the fall selling season, and a “win-win” for consumers, retailers and the state.

“Retailers are the backbone of the Maryland community,” Donoho said. “They are the people that employ friends and neighbors, and they are a lot of times the first job somebody has, and that’s the most important job.”

With more than 400,000 workers, retailers also are the largest private-sector employer in Maryland, Donoho said.

Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said 17 percent of the county’s labor force works in retail jobs.

Washington County Commissioners Jeff Cline and Ruth Anne Callaham also attended the event, along with state Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington.

Cline said after the announcement that the week “significantly” impacts local consumers and the local retail industry. He said he would support another tax-free week during the year.

“Prior to Thanksgiving or Christmas, or to extend the current one here for back-to-school shopping, would be an excellent idea,” he said. “With the current state of the economy, another week of tax-free shopping would benefit everyone, and accelerate and highlight the businesses in Washington County.”

Franchot is scheduled to talk about the tax-free week in Bethesda, Towson and Easton, Md., later this week, said Kim Frum, spokeswoman for the comptroller.

Franchot said he chose Premium Outlets as the first place to make the announcement because it is a “mecca” for consumers.

“People come to this mall from all over the state of Maryland because it’s well-run, diverse and there’s lots of shopping options,” he said. “It’s just a great mall, and it’s convenient because it’s right on the interstate.”

Franchot was scheduled to make three other stops in the county Wednesday, including:

n To present the 2013 William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award to Franklin P. Erck III at Fountain Head Country Club, in part for his volunteer work and efforts to raise money for local charities.

n To present a proclamation to the Rhubarb House on Hagerstown’s Public Square.

n To tour Red Heifer Winery at 24606 Raven Rock Road in Smithsburg and honor the family-owned winery, which is nearly a year old.

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