How to have a happy sales tax holiday

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Holidays usually mean spending money on decorations, celebrations, presents and greeting cards. But this year, Missourians will get an extra three-day summer holiday that is intended to help their pocketbooks.

From Aug. 13 to 15, as most people are preparing to send their children back to school, Missouri will celebrate its first sales tax holiday, during which the state's 4.225 percent sales tax will be waived on clothes, school supplies, personal computers and computer software. In addition, a vast majority of counties and municipalities -- including Cape Girardeau, Perry and Scott counties and the cities therein -- have also opted to drop their sales taxes for that weekend.

Local retailers and people whose job is promoting business have suggestions so customers can maximize their savings.

Consumers should make sure they go to the cities where all three -- state, county and city -- sales taxes are being waived, said Ray McCarty, director of fiscal affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Several area counties and communities won't participate in the holiday, including Charleston, Farmington, Kennett and New Madrid as well as New Madrid and Ste. Genevieve counties. McCarty said it will be best to hit cities like Jackson and Cape Girardeau, where sales of the items will be completely tax-free.

Tim Bryant, manager of the Cape Girardeau Wal-Mart, said it is important that consumers familiarize themselves with the dollar-amount limits and item criteria of the holiday. Should shoppers exceed those limits, and sales tax be incurred, Bryant said buyers won't be able to blame the retailer.

The holiday legislation stipulates that certain items will be eligible for tax exemption up to certain limits. Those items and limits are clothing -- including footwear -- priced at less than $100 per item, personal computers priced at $2,000 or less, school supplies less than $50 per purchase and computer software having taxable value of $200 dollars or less.

Shopping strategy

Since shoppers are expected be out in full force on those days, Bryant also recommends that shoppers plan out their days, what they want and where they plan to get it. He said advanced reconnaissance shopping trips and having a prepared wish list will be key in maximizing shopping convenience, time and energy.

J.C. Penney senior department manager Phyllis White said the sales tax holiday weekend will be especially busy in this area because both Cape Girardeau and Jackson schools will open the following week. White said that fact means most retailers will be running back-to-school sales and promotions simultaneously with the holiday. Her advice would be to hit those stores for increased savings.

For those hunting for computers, the holiday will provide an opportunity to escape the $100-plus in sales tax usually tacked on to a purchase. Paul Tiffany, who co-owns Computer 21 in Cape Girardeau, said that although the savings will be there, computer shoppers should still be careful when making the big purchase.

"People shouldn't just jump on the bargains," Tiffany advised. "They need to look at what they're getting."

Tiffany said cheaper computers often come with lower performance ratings and inferior warranties. He also said they are more likely to need replacement after a year. Tiffany said buyers should do their research on a computer's performance and support package prior to the holiday.

Tiffany also advised customers to think ahead when buying a computer on the holiday. Since they can save hundreds of dollars on their purchase, he said they need to think about what they may want to do with their computer in the future along with their immediate needs. The $2,000 holiday computer limit offers plenty of leeway when adding CD burners, video cards, DVD players and other hardware accessories.

For more information on the sales tax holiday, go to www.mochamber.com and click on the "Missouri Sales Tax Holiday" section under "Hot Topics."

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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