Shoppers adjust to no tax-free weekend

Jul. 30, 2014 @ 07:00 PM

Many Tri-County residents were unaware that purchases would have been tax-free this weekend without last year’s reform.

The General Assembly signed a bill repealing the holiday — a weekend-long exemption on sales tax for retail items such as clothing, school supplies and electronics — effective this year.

Sarah Beth Stanton said she had been waiting for the weekend all summer to scratch the more expensive items — like a refrigerator — off her purchase list in preparing for her first year of college.

“We didn’t even know,” she said. “I guess we will just go ahead and get everything now.”

North Carolina enjoyed its last tax-free weekend a week after lawmakers signed the Tax Simplification and Reduction Act last year.

Before that, the holiday applied to clothing items of $100 or less, school supplies of $100 or less, and computers costing $3,500 or less, according to the N.C. Department of Revenue.

Gracie Branch, who usually picks up clothing and school materials for her grandchildren during this time of the year, said the state should reconsider.

“They are just taking everything away from us,” she said. “This was really a great help to parents with one source of income.”

Companies in North Carolina had planned for the tax-free weekend to help out in the community.

Henderson’s Paradise Family Dentistry will give away 150 backpacks full of school supplies to its youth patients this year, which dental hygienist Michelle Prager said could get very expensive.

“We were hoping to take advantage of it since we are making such a big contribution to the community this year,” she said.

Adding taxes back to the weekend could, however, benefit the state.

According to the Department of Revenue, North Carolina lost about $13.6 million in tax revenue during the 2012 holiday.

Christie Burris, director of communications for the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, said they will track trends to see who actually saves money and if residents will still buy from local retailers.

“Although we were for tax reform in the beginning, we were disappointed to see this repealed,” she said. “We are just encouraging North Carolina retailers to be creative and provide the great customer service that they have already done.”

“We know customers are going to have their choices,” she said. “We hope they choose the community retailers instead of buying online or finding other places where there are no taxes.”

Ed Taylor, commissioner of revenue in neighboring Mecklenburg County, said he was also unaware of North Carolina’s doing away with the holiday.

“If that’s the case, I’m sure that people close to the Virginia line will come over and take advantage of it,” he said.

Taylor said Mecklenburg’s tax-free weekends are always successful.

In Virginia, tax-free weekend only applies to school supplies and clothes. Electronics, like laptops and tablets, are excluded.

Some businesses in North Carolina are offering incentives to keep residents shopping at home.

Staples team supervisor Camille Johnson said stores will give registered teachers a 25 percent-off coupon for the entire weekend. Teachers who aren’t registered can sign up and get 25 percent back later in rewards.

Many shoppers said instead of waiting for a specific day to shop, they will just go whenever it is convenient.

Staples sales associate Shannon Towns said she was happy to avoid large crowds of customers.

“Shoppers can get kind of crazy during times like tax-free weekend, Black Friday and Christmas,” she said.

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.