Sales Tax Holiday: Who Wins?

The state of Tennessee held a "Sales Tax Holiday" this past weekend. It is a 3-day period in which certain merchandise items are exempt from sales taxes. The holiday, held in conjunction with back-to-school, exempts school supplies, most clothing items, and computers. For a state in which the state sales tax rate is 7% and local sales tax rates as high as 2.75% on top of the state tax, it is a welcome relief to consumers!

Tennessee is one of 14 states (and DC) that offer such tax-free periods. Who wins with such a break? Of course, consumers win... as long as they do not take on too much credit card debt to pay for their "holiday" (not much of a holiday if you're still paying for last year's purchases!). We bought our kids' school supplies and updated their wardrobes during the sales tax holiday, but they are purchases we would have made, anyway. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the 9.75% discount I knew that was being offered before I even walked into a store.

The bigger winners? One would be retailers, who can thank state governments for fueling a consumption frenzy that even the best devised promotions often fail to create. It's a mini-version of "Black Friday," the day-after-Thanksgiving sales event that is the highlight of the year for most retailers. Another winner would be lawmakers responsible for creating sales tax holidays. It is hard to think of a safer position for a politician to take with voters than "I'm against taxes, and I want to help you pay less taxes." I will gladly indulge legislators as they do me a favor and suspend sales tax collections for a few days each year!