Sales Tax Holiday?

Since 2004 (except in the 2009 recession year), the legislature has voted a sales tax holiday weekend to occur in August. Typically, these votes have occurred in July. I have historically voted in favor of these holidays. They are popular and they seem like good will gestures worth making.

I’m actually starting to lean against voting for the holiday this year. Only 16 states have sale tax holidays. They just don’t work the way we think they should.

The state charges a sales tax of 6.25% on most items (but not groceries or reasonably priced clothing). The sales tax holiday hasn’t applied to automobiles or motorboats or meals or to any individual item over $2,500 in cost. It also hasn’t applied to installment sales. (See 2014 rules.) Many of us think of power tools, appliances and electronics when we think about making purchases on the holiday.

It’s a mixed blessing for consumers. Of course, it is a tax break, but there is evidence that some retailers charge higher prices or give smaller discounts on the sales tax holiday, so, in some cases, consumers don’t get much benefit. See “Sales Tax Holidays Can Mislead Consumers about Savings“.

Clearly, the holiday stimulates sales at a time (dog days of summer), when people aren’t typically buying expensive things. But it may not actually lead to any real increase in economic activity — the holiday may simply shift business from weekend to weekend without actually increasing business. See “Sales Tax Holidays Do Not Promote Economic Growth.”

I’ve never understood why stimulating sales of expensive appliances and electronic products that are mostly made in other countries has any particular benefit to Massachusetts or the United States. So, some big box retailers make a few extra bucks, but most of the items purchased were made elsewhere. The holiday gives retail workers some additional hours, but they may be losing opportunities at other times of year.

The only retail worker I’ve actually heard from complained about the likely need to cancel a vacation. To reduce the loss of sales due to people waiting for the holiday, the legislature always delays formalizing the holiday until the last minute. I’m writing on July 21 and we only have until July 31 to vote an August holiday. The last minute declaration of the holiday does damage the ability of workers to plan.

It’s not good tax policy to create complicated rules that favor certain products but not others — why encourage more electronics sales with a holiday, but not give a holiday for car sales.

Finally, it does hit the state budget — the state waived $24.56 million in sales taxes on the last holiday weekend, which was August 16-17, 2014. The estimated budget giveback from increased economic activity (through corporate and income taxes, etc.) was $3.25 million (according to estimates from the Department of Revenue). There are many unmet needs. $25 million is not big in the context of the budget, but it is nonetheless enough to make a difference in some way — for example, the Governor just vetoed continuing Kindergarten Expansion Grants which have historically run around $20 million year.

Holidays are festive and I am not by nature a grinch. That’s why I’ve voted for the holidays despite the arguments above. But I’m giving it a second thought this year. Your thoughts?

Update on July 30, 2015: Thanks so much to all who weighed in here or by email. I really appreciate the input. I know there are differing views on this, but, in the end, I felt most comfortable voting against this piece. The bill sailed through the House by a vote of 136-20 and the vote in the Senate was 28-11 in favor. The Governor has signed the legislation, so the Sales Tax Holiday is on. Hopefully, we are building towards a decision at some point soon to stop doing this, but here is more information for those considering how to take advantage of it.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

134 replies on “Sales Tax Holiday?”

  1. Seems like a waste of time unless there’s evidence that it convinces people to buy things they wouldn’t normally buy. Otherwise, it’s just moving purchases around and causing congestion on the sale days.

    It may be a bother to some retail workers, which is a shame, but it probably doesn’t hurt anything otherwise.

    1. If I understand the arguments, tax holidays not only do not benefit low income working families but harm them: fraud opportunities, and last minute working schedule changes. How can one vote yes after reading this?
      As usual many thanks for sharing your primary sources.

  2. Dear Will,

    If I hadn’t read your thoughtful comments I might. have been in favor of having the ” tax holiday” even though personally it has never made the least difference to me, but in view of what you write I would encourage you to vote against having it.


  3. Will,
    I’ve never thought the idea of tax holiday made much sense. Of course, I’m a tax and spend liberal, but for all the persuasive arguments against it you provide above, I vote no.

  4. Sales tax holidays are a gimmmick that do not contribute to economic development or well being.

  5. Though over the last few years I have bought only a television, refrigerator and stove. I do not spend just to save a couple of bucks. Given the state of our economy and infrastructure, I feel the loss of that sales tax revenue is harmful. I would that money go towards repairing our roads and bridges. Also, some of the $24.56 million could go to education, the needy and senior citizen relief that is so often overlooked,

  6. I have heard complaints about stores raising prices during these holidays, so people would actually not be paying less. And your thoughts about the problems and complications make such a ‘holiday’ sound even more problematic. I think you should vote against it.

  7. I have bought floor lamps,a vacuum and small furniture pieces when aware of the tax weekend.many a time I have been away and missed.With your valid points one is talking of saving on average of between $7 and $60 dollars which with funding of important subsidies in jeopardy does seem foolish.I support you if veto. There is the joy of thinking you are getting a better deal but the cost to your community is high.

  8. I’d encourage you to vote against it. Given that the evidence does not show any significant stimulative impact and it just drains money from the state (which is always suffering from constrained funds), voting against it would seem the responsible action to me.

  9. Will, if (as is likely the case) the holiday mainly shifts the timing of big ticket purchases that people were going to make anyway, the program is not worth it. People anticipate a temporary holiday and the effect becomes neutral.

    In a related vein, I would suggest a toll holiday on the Sturbridge exit of the Mass Pike on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving morning.
    I and thousands of fellow travelers have wasted countless hours in delays as the toll booths are overwhelmed, even with Easy Pass. I would gladly pay a nickel higher toll every other day of the year to make up any revenue loss on Thanksgiving.

  10. Agreed, the sales tax holiday is a bad idea. No real benefit, just a gimmick and a shifting of tax burden from people who have time to go shopping on a particular date to those who don’t. And as a conservative, I hope nobody thinks that conservatives are dumb enough to believe the tax holiday is any real kind of tax break.

    Please do what you can to kill it. Then perhaps the General Court can move on to the really outrageous tax holiday–the one that’s only available to Hollywood, the film tax credit. Here’s hoping you can finally slay that demon this year too.

  11. W

    I don’t support the tax holidays. These types of programs may be appealing to taxpayers but they are not effective at doing anything other than giving away revenue.

  12. I believe, based on all I have read, that sales tax holidays are a waste of valuable time for legislators and anyone else who is supposed to benefit. I also think it is inappropriate for gov’t to get involved in subsidizing marketing in the private sector…and I assume that free market types would abhor this activity.
    So if we have no evidence of benefits, why on earth continue?

  13. For the most part I am against it. I would rather see the money go to infrastructure repairs and education. However, many do look forward to the tax holiday and actually wait until that weekend to purchase items that they need.
    The merchant should share in the expense as they profit from it the most…by jacking up prices and luring consumers into their stores and being able to take advantage of impulse buying.

    Bottom line…I say vote no.

  14. I would support a “no” vote. The sales tax is an essential revenue stream. The retailers who need the state’s help are the local independent retailers, not big box chain stores.

    1. Just to add to Jan’s point: the cost of reprogramming cash registers is negligible to the box stores–who gain the most from the sales tax holiday gimmick–while mom and pop stores have to manually tweak workarounds to their simpler point of sale systems.

  15. Only reason to keep it is to help families manage “back to school” expenses.

    Otherwise, vote against it and chip away at the state’s deficit.

  16. I used it one year for the cabinets in remodeling my kitchen and another year for appliances. I would otherwise have bought those things anyway. I can from a state without it, and first learned of it when I moved here. I see no point. It seems to favor those with more discretionary money to spend.

  17. I have mixed feelings about it too. I do work in retail, furniture sales. Most of our upholstered furniture is made in North Carolina (so that is good). Some folks do look for this tax break to buy furniture, and you are right about other promotions being suspended for this timeframe. Often there are other promotions right behind the tax holiday for Labor Day. Everyone wants a bargain.

  18. Will,
    I agree with the direction you are leaning on this. Stores, not the state, should be creating their own buying incentives. Because shoppers will buy what they need eventually anyway, having a tax holiday isn’t worth the loss in state revenue. I believe it also causes a slow period for stores before and after the tax holiday that is not beneficial to anyone.

  19. I agree that it is not all that beneficial to the taxpayer and in the end a loss of millions to the budget which currently could use a little extra help. Please vote NO this year for the tax holiday.

  20. I guess at this point some people depend on it. I think if the State can afford it, fine. But I also think MEALS & the Restaurant industry should absolutely be included!

  21. Lots of citizens love the idea. They feel they are getting a break. Retailers have a great weekend. On the show Greater Boston, the three panelists wanted to see the tax expanded to the meals tax. Sue O’Connell from Bay Windows said August for retailers can be the dog days of buying. Just had me think of this in a different light.
    With that said, losing $23 million is a hunk of change needed on the state level too. Sort of a Hobson’s Choice.

  22. The Senator’s comments frame my view as eloquently as could be said.

    Why give away the revenue we so desperately need? People just wait for the tax holiday to do their shopping and so the boost to the economy is nil.

  23. Will,

    I understand the issues you raise but in the the end the sales tax holiday gives the beleaguered Mass resident a break. I think we should approve it.


  24. I can support a no-vote.
    I have only used this “holiday” once and, then, cynically: the year my daughter left for college and needed a better computer. Weighed against the tuition bill, the savings were a joke. As a teacher with 44 years of experience — and counting — I appreciate the the data and critical thinking here. Will, you get an “A” for that. I hope supporters who follow this site will disseminate it as best they can with a goal of reducing the economic illiteracy that seems to plague us.

  25. Given the budget issues, I’d rather not have this “holiday.” People don’t spend more, they just postpone spending until the tax holiday, so it’s a net loss with no gain for the state budget. I really doubt the numbers that say it gains us anything.

    INMO, vetoing kindergarten funding is very short term thinking.

  26. Will,
    Ask yourself this:
    Is the biggest proponent of the sales tax holiday the lobby for Massachusetts retailers or activists representing the working poor?
    You know as well as anyone that the sales tax is a regressive tax that only gives lip service to real tax reform.
    How about some real tax reform where the lowest members of society don’t give away the highest proportion of their income?

  27. I am fine with a no vote. People can get just as good deals during sales. I think it’s a feel-good savings in the short term but not really beneficial for all, for the reasons you outlined and more. I encourage you to vote no. Thanks for asking.

  28. We should NOT have tax holiday>. It means very little and simply changes the purchase date. We need the revenue!

  29. I was waiting to buy a snowblower as the retailer said sales tax holiday was the only possible opportunity to save on one. I am fine with a no vote.

  30. will–I think the question “is it a good thing” is the wrong question. the better question is, given what we know (as you cite in your comments) about the effects or lack of effects from this effort, could the money be BETTER spent on something else (where we know the effects are bigger or more certain) (as you note about the expanded kindergarten). I would think that we could take the revenue lost and put it to better use (gee, if nuthin’ else, one could devote it to low-income weatherization and serve all sorts of agendas!).

  31. The sales tax holiday never made any sense to me but I do admit taking advantage of it two years ago to buy large screen TV. It was a planned purchase I would have made regardless of the tax break. I join any others who would strongly urge the discontinuance of this statewide money loosing idea.

  32. I don’t think there has ever been any data that has shown an overall increase in business because of the sales tax holiday. The message it sends is that the state doesn’t really need all of the money that it collects – exactly the wrong message to send if you believe there are unmet needs.

  33. I don’t think the sales tax holiday is a good idea. As a consumer, you really don’t save that much, but the loss in revenue to the state is huge!

  34. Sales taxes are regressive and hit poor people the hardest. They should be abolished except for luxury goods. Revenue could be made up with a carbon tax. It’s time to start rethinking the tax structure and making it more progressive. We should be taxing behavior that we don’t want. And taxing wealthy people to pay for education and other critical needs.

  35. Please vote against. As you know taxes pay for good and useful things. Staff at group homes don’t get a “tax holiday ” from having to do their jobs. I have never seen anything pro this that is convincing. Thanks as always.

  36. Will, I am so glad to see you raising this issue. I have long wondered why this tax holiday has been continued, year after year. I have to assume there was a moment when it made enough sense to introduce this as a way of stimulating commerce, but never has it made sense to me otherwise. Indeed, $25m is a lot of revenue for the state to forgo at a time when critical needs are going unmet. It seems to me that if someone is going to make a big purchase, they’ll make that purchase sooner or later without the incentive. I would prefer the holiday not be continued. Thanks for asking.

  37. I am against it. The state needs the revenue, especially given the cuts in the governor’s budget. Social services should not be cut so that people can buy appliances without having to pay sales tax.

  38. The sales tax holiday is economic nonsense…a form of hocus-pocus! It does not provide and significant stimulus to the Mass economy. Maybe during the recession it had some justification for helping Mass residents, but that need is no longer in place. Please vote NO.

  39. 7 Cherry Street
    I do not support the tax holiday. Your arguments against it make sense to me. Plus I wouldn’t buy something just because there was a tax holiday.

  40. I think tax holidays are a waste of time. People seem to like them because they like to avoid taxes, but they’d do better to wait for a sale, and then pay tax on the sale price. And the cost to the state in lost revenue is a serious problem. I would support you in opposing it.

  41. Will,
    For all the reasons you mention I’ve never been in favor of repealing (in part) the sales tax for one August weekend.

  42. Will
    I with you on the Tax Holiday. The State Need the Money For other things not the Tax Holiday.

  43. I’m neutral on a tax holiday, but it’s a nice good will gesture from the State.

  44. expand the tax holiday to include autommobiles w/ some kind of a provision that the dealers will not take advantage of the consumer by jacking up the price or removing incentives.
    I’m willing to bet they will reap a bonanza from the buyers
    The state can cap it @ $10,000, anything above that the tax will be paid

  45. Agree with your points. Tax holiday not a good idea. Suggest you vote against.

  46. I hope you can muster enough support to reinstate the state’s contribution to the Belmont community path. Spend just 5 minutes on the Minuteman path in Arlington and you see what a wonderful community amenity a path can be. And, there’s also the climate change / emissions reduction benefit that would result.

  47. I support your inclination to vote against a state tax holiday. The state needs the money.

  48. I tend to agree with you that a tax holiday for cars or other big ticket items made in the USA would make more sense. For instance I might be in the market for a snow blower after last winter’s back breaking non stop shoveling!

  49. I entirely agree with your conclusions and the supporting arguments. The holiday is a retail sales tool, not really focused on jobs. Amazon is already cutting prices substantially to sell during the summer retail doldrums.

    I would rather focus political capital on the urban quality of life in Watertown, Belmont, Arlington, Cambridge and the mobility issues that impact the neighborhoods.

    With declining commuting speeds, 7% in the last decade according to the Boston MPO, and the rising number of commuters, and the swelling desire of the rising younger work force to live urban, and walk-bike-transit and not to car, we have real work to do.

  50. Wish that more legislators would go to the trouble of thinking through (or even rethinking) their decisions on gimmicky events like this that masquerade as being pro-consumer but, in the end, make it less likely that we can find the funds for important programs. Thanks for your thoughtful analysis, Will.

  51. I strongly support it. People who are tight for money wait gmfor that holiday, and many of them check prices ahead of time. When we had two kids in college we bought a front loading, stacking washer and dryer from Sozio, low water usage and wouldn’t have been purchased without the holiday. Also, I disagree with the dismissal of box stores. They employ people. Finally, the disregard for ordinary people who enjoy the tax holiday is a great advertisement for purchasing all sorts of items in NH – from tablets to lawn mowers.

    Diane Covert

  52. I agree with your analysis (and have since the beginning of the holidays).

    I think the overall solution regarding taxes is to educate people on why we have taxes, what the state uses them for, and how in a democracy you don’t get to earmark your taxes (they are for the COMMON GOOD). The misconceptions people have, that politicians are corrupt and misusing public funds must be corrected.

    Thanks for asking!

  53. I agree. Ditch the tax holiday. As you mentioned, consumers are not getting any great benefits and the state is losing revenue. If the goal is to help local retailers, a better approach would be to apply state sales tax to online purchases made from places like Amazon.

  54. After hearing your arguments on both sides, I would say that the lost revenue for the state would be more important to capture, so I would say vote no.

  55. I am not in favor of a sales tax holiday. I agree with your reasoning and would rather the money go to the state budget.

  56. I am 100% in favor of a tax holiday weekend. This drives business to local store which is desperately needed and away from the malls just over the border in NH.

    A better idea is to reduce the sales tax to the old 5% at all times and cut wasteful programs from the state budget.

    1. Agreed, the sales tax differential with New Hampshire killed big retail near the border. I’m willing to believe that. But a one weekend holiday won’t bring it back to life — the businesses just aren’t there.

  57. 9 Kilsyth Terrace

    I am not in favor of the tax break because the state needs tax dollars for programs to help people of low income to advance economically and socially.

  58. I am opposed to tax holiday.

    It seems it just effects the timing of purchases and isn’t stimulating sales that wouldn’t occur otherwise.

  59. I am mostly against the holiday. It is a one off gift that does not mean much. Better to figure a way do things more efficiently and lower sales taxes. Or vote to require that UPS Fedex and the Post office collect MA sales taxes on mail order, & internet deliveries in MA unless the UPS or Fedex customer shows that it collects MA sales tax. Require a level playing field between local and out of state retailers with regards to sales tax.

    I am against adding complexity, it only leads to gaming the tax system. The state has few ways to determine if a sale occurred on the holiday, but may have been arranged before hand and “the transaction for tax purposes happened on the holiday”

    The optics of the holiday look good for the politicians, but then so does cutting taxes look good even if long term it hurts society, commerce, and future economic growth.

  60. I think that the very idea of a ‘sales tax holiday’ confirms and supports the idea that taxes are an onerous imposition by the government, rather than the means by which we enable government to do for us the things we want done. Thus promotion of a sales tax holiday is a contribution to civic miseducation.

  61. Dear Senator Brownsberger,

    I think that the state sales tax “holiday” should be repealed for all the reasons you outlined. Massachusetts can’t afford to give up millions in revenue every year. The cut that included the kindergarten expansion grants is just one example.That shortchanges our investment in developing kids brains so some people can buy gear or appliances. It’s akin to a drug dealer giving a price break to hook a buyer on continuing purchases.

    Elizabeth Thompson
    Arlington, MA 15th Pct.

  62. Will,
    I am against the tax holiday in Massachusetts. Why give a group of residents a break just because they happen to be around in the summer and feel they need to take advantage of a tax break?

  63. I appreciate your comments on this. I agree with your position – the sales tax holiday doesn’t really do much for Massachusetts residents or workers. I support maintaining sufficient tax revenues that we are able to help people who are truly disadvantaged in our state.

  64. Hello Senator. I hadn’t given it much thought at all, but your thoughts and arguments against it convinced me it’s not worth it. Thank you for helping me understand; I was particularly struck by your points about retail workers not making much more money in the long run, and having difficulty planning vacations (retail is a TOUGH area for workers ). Thank you. I support your intention to vote against it.
    Janet Kenney

  65. Hi Will

    I share your reservations. I think with the uncertainty about benefits and benefit recipients we should drop the tax holiday.

    I suspect that many who wait for the bargain … well, “Doncha… just love a bargain!?” I wonder how many of the bargain shoppers are needy/ struggling consumers? But we do not have a good way to find out, do we?

    The state could use the tax revenue .

    Best to you!

  66. I think you are right. Furniture stores are now offering the sales tax discount on their own. Time for an end to the holiday.

  67. Hi Senator Brownsberger,

    I agree with your assessment. I do know a few people who have taken advantage of the holiday to buy a new computer, but the timing has never worked for me and I’ve been turned off by all the hype. I tend to replace things when they break which unfortunately don’t usually oblige right before the tax holiday.

    When I have delved into it, I have found that the savings also aren’t great. Like those horrible holiday shopping sales, I tend to stay away.

    Marcia Ciro

  68. It has never made any sense to me to have a tax holiday. The state loses valuable revenue and I doubt people actually buy more. I haven’t studied the data, but it just seems illogical and short-term thinking. The earned income tax credit will do more for those who truly need the help.

  69. I’m shocked you have to ask! Why not a permanent tax holiday, but I suppose that would be asking too much. I do not know one person who is against a tax-free holiday weekend.

    Bring it on!!

  70. I favor a NO vote for a sales tax
    holiday, for the very reasons you have laid out.

  71. Will, I agree with you. Given the cuts the governor is making, the money is needed.

  72. Actually, I think the tax holidays are kind of dumb and just pandering. It’s like the tiny little tax cuts that make very little difference for for many people (including those of us who try to buy stuff only when we need it) but add up to big bucks lost for the state. If the state kept that $24M or say, maybe vetos of funding for arts programs (e.g. Landmarks Orchestra)would seem less necessary.

  73. Yes Will, I think you’re right, for all the reasons you list and explain, but especiay because the Mass treasury needs the money. The tax holiday smacks of consumerism. We really should move away from incentives that encourage this behavior. The private sector provides enough incentives if its own.

  74. There should be a tax holiday. There are many in the city, part of your constituency not as wealthy as Belmont, for whom every little but helps, even if it’s only one weekend.

    However, MA should follow the lead of other states and move the weekend to just after the start of school so those buying school supplies — sparents and teachers both — can take advantage. The current weekend is too early; no one knows yet what’s needed for the coming year. Since school funding keeps getting cut, forcing parents and teachers to supply their own books, a 6% cut in price is significant.

    And consider college students for a moment. Have you looked at the price of text books lately? A single organic chemistry book can be over $200. Art history books can be $400 or more. My school supplies last year cost over $1500. But with the tax holiday in August and the required materials list not available until September, there was no way to know what was needed.

    Not everyone is looking for cars and TVs. Some of us are just looking for a little help.

  75. Hi Will. As usual I appreciate your well thought out discussion. I agree it does not make sense to take $25 million out of the budget, especially when it may be largely going to the retailers if they’re offering items at higher prices. However politically, I think it may be hard to sell and not be seen as a Grinch but I’d be fine with you voting against it. As usual it’s the people who are most hurt by the lost state income who will complain about losing it….

  76. I agree with your change of heart and reasoned argument Will. Its a gimmick that complicates the lives of workers and has no measurable impact. Better to focus on substantive legislation.

  77. Thoughtful analysis Will – I say let’s stop doing this. The benefits do not appear to warrant incurring the costs.

  78. +1. Whether or not it was pandering when first implemented a decade ago, the data are in: It doesn’t achieve it’s stated goal. Time to end it.

  79. Will,
    I am also not a big fan of the sales tax holiday. I think it is being used by retailers as a gimmick and hurts businesses before and after that weekend as people hold off on purchases.

  80. I agree with your analysis, and oppose the tax holiday. It seems goofy and a bit gimmicky. If you thought the ‘goodwill gesture’ made the citizenry feel more favorable to the state government, then I defer to your judgment.

  81. The sales tax “holiday” idea never made sense to me – it just changes which week purchases are made, and there is less money to support state and local programs.

  82. The sales tax is a regressive tax that burdens the poor the most. For those who have cars, they can jump over the north border. Let’s get rid of it and make up the lost revenue by raising the income tax an appropriate amount. The taxation structure in Massachusetts is very much broken. This is where the attention should be focused.

  83. we never believed the RIGHT TO PURCHASE with legitament currency a taxable event or source.

  84. The tax holiday is a boon to business. My brother owns a small business. His usual sales for an August weekend are: $3000 on Saturdays and $1500 on Sundays. On the tax holiday weekend last year his sales were $44,000 on Saturday and $15,000 on Sunday. It is not a sales shift from one day to another. The tax holiday offers an incentive for people to shop for items they may not otherwise be able to afford. His business is outdoor grills and hearth products. He runs promotions for the tax holiday weekends whereby he lowers regular pricing to further encourage customer interest. When you tax something you get less of it. Government policies should not be detrimental to economic growth. The private sector provides jobs.

  85. I agree that the sales tax holiday should be vetoed. The most cogent reason comes from one of the links — that the very people hardest hit by a regressive tax in the first place (poor and middle classes) are the very groups that can’t manipulate their budget so that they can make their purchases in that narrow time frame.

    In order to address this, perhaps the alternative of anyone having a SNAP or MassHealth card (denoting limited income) should NEVER have to pay tax, much as nonprofits are excluded. It then creates a gulf — perhaps as little as 1000/year suddenly puts you into that 6.25% regressive sales tax bracket, but it would be a start — and targeting those who need the break, not those who have the discretionary income to take advantage.

    1. Wow, things I’ve never considered, let alone would think as possibilities. Those breaks would certainly help people like me and seniors on SS. But unfortunately the abuses of the system are so rampant and widespread that for those of us who do not abuse the system and play by the rules the state/feds would find a way to punish the miscreants across the board which would affect those who don’t cheat (as always). However, what progressive & forward thinking ideas you have. We’ll never see it bu perhaps one of the future generations of almost-seniors on SSDI or those already collecting Social Security will benefit from those types of tax “holidays”.

  86. definitely against tax holidays:
    – it’s a gimmick
    – we can’t afford to collect less taxes
    – no need to stimulate people to buy more stuff they don;t need

  87. Rather than forego $25M in revenue for something that does not appear to stimulate the economy and probably causes some worker hardship, the state should spend that money on infrastructure or aid to cities and towns and call that a gift.
    Feel good legislation without voter education leads us down the wrong path and costs too much just when we can’t afford it.

  88. I think it’s time to end the “tax holiday”. It is quite clear that there is little benefit and for most people who do like it, the amount you can save is really small, especially when you consider the hassle, the wasteful impulse purchases, the difficulty in shopping around and so on. Plus I think things that would otherwise be on sale just aren’t during “holiday”.

    It just makes trying to shop for anything around this time confusing and stressful.

    We could make better use of the money.

  89. I am all for LESS TAXES. I’d like to know when food was not a necessity like clothing? And is it not a help to businesses, big and small, like restaurants? It pisses me off every time I have to pay a tax on a meal in ANY restaurant.
    If politicians were paid REASONABLE SALARIES, much of that tax could be cut WAY BACK. I might even consider voting for an incumbent IN EITHER PARTY.
    For now I give no vote to ANY incumbent whether opposed or not.
    But this is Mass. where people love taxes of any kind.

    1. Yes, I don’t understand why food not eaten in one’s home is taxed. Dunkin coffee is taxed, a $2 sandwich at some cheap burger place is taxed regardless if one eats there or takes it with them. It’s not a luxury to eat 2 silces of pizza and a salade from Joe’s Pizza Place when the oven has broken or food shopping has not happened due to snow mounds. Come to think of it, why is pet food taxed ? It’s food, it’s eaten at home and prepared by a guardian. Pet’s are not a luxury, they are not things such as leather sofa or diamond earrings. For some of us, most of us, pets are family members. For many of us they provide a [medical] service.

  90. I think I am with you, lets not offer the sales tax holiday this year and see how it goes. More money for education and infrastructure is important.

    Thanks – (sad to say, I’m not in your district but appreciate your efforts and out-reach)

  91. Because I buy a lot of pet care items from food to litter to toys, in the past when I had 5 pets and a booming pet care business it really did pay off for me in that regard. I also loaded up on paper products *if* they were on sale and I had a double coupon and used a credit card which accrued points. At some places like home supply stores if they had anything in stock it also paid off, I’d order in advance and pay on the day of. But lately, my finances are such that my purchasing power has all but diminished, my business is just about done and i have 2 pets. The auto repairs have been enormous in the past 2 years but seem to have missed tax free wknd every year. And I agree , prices *are* jacked up, absolutely no doubt about it as retailers are trying to make up for slow August’s when everyone is away. So,for this constituent, it doesn’t really matter as I ave no disposable income and the only thing I desperately need is a new car which would be ineligible. Thanks for your thoughts and for asking.

  92. I think the sales tax holiday is nice for people but I’m generally not in favor of it. It is a tight year and I’m more concerned that we have funding for kindergarten and school-to-work support systems for people. I also think people buy and accumulate too much stuff as it is!

  93. I’m opposed to the tax holiday. I think it mostly encourages people to buy things that they don’t need or can’t afford. And the state needs the money.

  94. The sales tax holiday is clearly a gimmick. However, I would propose that it should not simply be eliminated but instead replaced with something that makes far more economic sense and is not a gimmick: Lower the sales tax rate year-round. There are ways that this could be achieved without pulling money from other programs and while providing greater revenue stability to the Commonwealth and reducing the regressive burden of the tax.

    For example there is $25 million in forgone revenue from the current yearly holiday as well as millions more in forgone revenue due to exemptions in the sales tax base including items and services such as clothing, mechanic’s services, camp ground rental fees, amusement park admissions, bibles and soda and the goes on much longer than that. Many people might think that clothing should remain exempt since it’s a “reasonably priced” necessity but few would accept that a $165 Lacoste polo is really a necessity let alone reasonably priced. A better way to allow for the disadvantaged to access clothing without tax could be to narrow the exemption to a lower dollar figure, such as $50 indexed to inflation, or even to only exempt clothing sold by stores which primarily deal in second-hand clothing (Goodwill, Salvation Army).

    Keep in mind that states have to compete with their neighbors, particularly in New England, and having a broader base and lower rate would reduce the incentive to schlep to New Hampshire based on the sales tax due compared to cost of gas calculation. The best way to be competitive with New Hampshire is not to have one weekend a year where we are competitive but to lower the differential between our 6.25% sales tax rate and their 0% rate.

    1. These are responsible ideas. Agreed that a one weekend holiday does nothing at all to solve the New Hampshire differential. Unfortunately, no serious discussion of the sales tax structure at this time.

  95. We all love a tax break. I can’t imagine that the lost revenue will break the Commonwealth’s budget.

  96. I’m really encouraged (and surprised) by the preponderance of opinion in the comments — most would be happy to do away with the tax holiday. I love living in Massachusetts. 🙂

    A number of commenters have proposed lowering, limiting, or eliminating the sales tax. I could get on board with any of those ideas, depending on the details. It’s interesting that nobody (or nobody I noticed in my quick scan) has followed the logical path to making up the lost revenue by raising the (more progressive) income tax. Those who mentioned it at all mentioned eliminating waste and fraud (always good) or cutting unspecified programs (maybe not so good, but show me the programs).

    I don’t love taxes, but I do love the services they buy. Of the choices available, I dislike the income tax least. Just for the record, Will: I’d be very happy to see my income tax go up in exchange for everybody’s sales taxes going down.

    1. Well put. Democracy is expensive. Supporting diversity, which is both our history and our future, is the responsibility of all of us.

  97. Dear Will,

    Thanks for getting opinions. I’m leaning the way you are, i.e. not to have the tax holiday.

    It’s telling that it seems to benefit some large stores rather than the economy broadly. (Issue of income inequality). And in general I don’t want to encourage a tax-cutting trend. (Issues of public services, role of government, social contract).

    Thanks for your service on our behalf,

    Tom Best

  98. I’m with you, Will; use to be a yes, now a hmmm. I’m big on celebrating, but not fully trusting retail/capitalistic motivation. Assuming these taxes play an important role supporting services and infrastructure necessary to our Common Wealth, deleting them from the bottom line as a sale’s ploy seems not to be advantageous to most, in the long run.
    And retail employees can use a vacation, too.

  99. I think the “holiday” is just an expensive, feel-good (for anti-tax people) gimmick. I agree with your reasons against it. Yes, be the grinch! Actually, in this case, you’d be the grown-up. Tell us (on the floor) it’s bad policy, tell us why, and vote against it.

    Yes, I’ve bought things on the holiday in previous years – always things I would have bought anyway. I’ve even shopped a couple weeks ahead of time (for a fridge), and the sales person offered to put the transaction on the holiday to avoid the tax.

    Catch the piece on this on the front of today’s (Mon) Globe.

  100. Eva makes very good points. Government should make policy that does not impede our local businesses. I wish we could hear more from the many local business owners on this issue. They create jobs. They hire people. That is good for the economy. Taxes add to the cost of doing business.

    1. I am a local business owner. The sales tax holiday has zero impact on my business.

      Like the majority of local businesses, I am not in the consumer retail business. I’ll also note that the last I checked, businesses buying goods from other businesses don’t get the sales tax holiday.

      The notion that all small businesses are consumer retail is an odd one.

  101. Let us make it a dead issue. We should now go towards a reduced sales tax that would cover high ticket items like titled motor vehicles and high end luxury items only. Of course there is the revenue loss which should be made up by adjusting the income tax.There is a way of making the income tax more progressive and I think it is in process like the earned income tax credit. etc.
    We can do like NH did, now return the favor and eat their tax lunch (and also eat CT and RI’s tax lunch. For a change people would jump the border into Mass. instead of out of Mass.

  102. I think the sales tax holiday is a bad idea and am glad to hear that you will come down against it. It doesn’t provide much benefit for all people, only for those who are making large purchases which they would probably be making in any case. I think Mass can’t afford it any longer and that the money should be put to better use.

  103. Why wouldn’t you, a Democrat, be against any tax breaks. Wise shoppers can compare and save on the tax holiday. The sales tax was supposed to come down quite some time ago, but legislators gave themselves a big, fat pay raise, so now YOU need more taxes to pay their outrageous salaries and perks.
    The founders would not stand for higher taxes, but today’s multitude Democrat voters just loved ’em.

    1. Gordon, just for the record, here is the history of legislative base pay since I have been in office — in recent years, it has been flat to down:

      2007/2008 $58,237.15

      2009/2010 $61,440.19

      2011/2012 $61,132.99

      2013/2014 $60,032.60

      2015/2016 $60,032.60

  104. Massachusetts needs a progressive, graduated income tax. We are now officially back to the income distribution seen during the Gilded Age. I was a republican for many years and drank the kool-aid about trickle down. Guess what, jobs have been exported out of the US and wealth has only trickled up. Time for some serious changes. The tax holiday was a joke and only deprived the state of needed tax revenue. Keep up the good work Senator Brownsberger!

  105. I realize this is after the fact, but I wanted to let you know I think the sales tax holiday should be discontinued.

  106. I already “bought” some furniture this past week, and they’ll put the sale through this weekend, “saving” about $120. We would have bought the same thing for the same price. Just like thousands of other people, surely.

    Again, it’s a gimmick.

  107. The tax free weekend started last week. I purchased a fridge last week because mine broke. I could not wait to save 6.25%. The store said that they would bill me during the tax free weekend. Another big furniture store was advertising the tax free deal. You could purchase items for 2 weeks before the weekend and save the tax. I bet those billing went thru during the tax free weekend. If a store had a “Save 6.25% sale” how many people would shop?

Comments are closed.