2-day sales tax holiday near? As August approaches, lawmakers facing decision.

Position:NEWS
 
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Byline: Lisa Eckelbecker

State officials could decide in the next few weeks whether to declare a two-day sales tax holiday next month.

Lawmakers have filed multiple bills for a weekend of tax-free shopping, and a retail trade group is beginning to ask its members to push for the measure.

Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said tax-free weekends entice Massachusetts consumers to buy goods they otherwise might have purchased tax-free online or in New Hampshire.

"It's a huge success," he said of sales tax holidays in Massachusetts and other states. "We would argue the Massachusetts sales tax weekend is the most successful because it encourages consumers to keep their dollars local."

Sales tax holidays differ from state to state, but many take place during summer months when retailers say their business slows. During past sales tax holidays, Massachusetts has waived sales taxes on most purchases up to $2,500 except for cars, boats, meals and certain other goods.

At Percy's, a Worcester electronics and appliance store, Sales Manager Alan S. Lavine said tax-free weekends are typically the store's biggest sales week of the year. He expressed caution about whether to plan for one this year.

"I haven't heard anything on the sales tax holiday," Mr. Lavine said. "I'm not counting on it."

The prospect of lost revenue can influence political leaders' decisions about sales tax holidays. Massachusetts revenue authorities estimated the state missed out on $19.9 million in sales tax collections last August because of a sales tax holiday.

Despite that, sales tax collections in Massachusetts during the first 11 months of the 2011 fiscal year, including last August, were up 7 percent over the same period a year earlier. Revenue...

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