Taxpayer holiday welcomed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I always get excited around the holiday season.

Like most people, I enjoy the good times with family and friends as well as the good spirit I feel during the season.

Imagine if that spirit could be felt at back-to-school time as well? It is time for Alabama to adopt a Sales Tax Holiday to coincide with shopping that always occurs when it is time for parents to send their kids back to school.

In 1997, New York became the first state to adopt the idea of a tax holiday.

Under their law, New York provided tax relief to taxpayers by instituting a sales tax exemption on certain items for a period of time in August, which is the traditional back-to-school shopping period.

This tax holiday was a huge success in New York, not only because it saved people money on basic necessities but it also provided for a jump start in local retail businesses.

Since New York’s law was initiated, 13 other states have enacted similar forms of tax holiday periods.

In Georgia, they have a tax-free weekend in August of each year. When former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes signed the tax holiday bill into law, he said it would draw money from all of Georgia’s neighboring states.

He was right.

The holiday has led to record retail sales in Georgia during the back to school season, many of the customers coming from neighboring states like Alabama.

We should have tax policies that encourage spending in Alabama as opposed to spending our monies in other states.

What could be so bad about making it easier for people to spend money on retail items, improving the Alabama economy and getting a small tax break all at the same time?

In Alabama, a sales tax break would not only pump more money into our economy it would also keep a little more money in family pocketbooks.

For example, if we assume that the state sales tax is 8 percent and a family spends about $250 on back-to-school supplies, then they would save a little less than $20 on that purchase.

While this does not sound like a whole lot of money to some people, it could mean a great deal to those who must watch every penny of their family budget.

For families with children, back-to-school shopping is a major financial expenditure in the budget each year.

Wouldn’t it be a nice holiday if for one day, parents could have the government get off their backs while they shop for clothes and other school supplies to help their children as prepare to start back to school?

While no one can question the need for more widespread tax reform in our state, the idea of a tax holiday would be a wonderful first step in working to create a more tax friendly atmosphere in Alabama.

With a sales tax structure that already proves to be an undue burden on many of our poorest families in Alabama, a tax break on back-to-school items would be a welcome relief.

Cam Ward is the state representative for District 49 which includes parts of Bibb and Shelby counties. He resides in Alabaster