Shop till you Drop Tax Free this Weekend

The weekend marks the 11th year Texas gives citizens a break from sales taxes on some items. Houston state senator Rodney Ellis sponsored legislation that created the weekend. He says the initial list of taxable items has grown.

"I co-sponsored a bill that expanded the list of tax exempt items to include...items such as backpacks, clothes, paper and pens, starting this year. I will continue to fight to add more items to this list during the sales tax holiday because I think it's needed to help our children and our families."

At 8.25 percent, Ellis says Texas has one of the highest combined sales tax rates in the country:

"High sales taxes hit our low income and the elderly Texans the hardest, forcing our poorer citizens to pay up to six times more of their income in sales taxes than more affluent Texans."

Texas Comptoller Susan Combs says the economy has changed the spending patterns for many of us.

"We expect this coming weekend Texas families will save 65-point-7 million dollars in sales tax they would otherwise be spending, and since the senator got this bill passed in 1999, families in Texas have saved 442 million dollars and, I think something important to note. Two other states, Florida and Illinois, cancelled their sales tax holiday for this year but not Texas. We know how important it is for these families."

The sales tax holiday does cost the state money, and cities and other entities that thrive off the sales tax revenue don't necessarily like it. Brendan Halford is manager of Macy's downtown. He calls it aξ win-win situation.

"For the stores and for the customers and, we've shown in thd past few years that it's incremental sales. It's never moved from one period to another, so our history does show that it's incremental sales, which is great for our business and great for our customers."

Senator Ellis argues that it brings in more revenue to the state because it gets more people to shop. This woman says she would enjoy it more if it weren't for the crowds.

"I think they should do it at least a couple of times, instead of just one weekend, so that everybody won't be out there at the same time, and the crowds won't be so bad. I can't do the crowds."

The sales tax holiday begins on Friday and end on Sunday. A complete list of tax exempt items can be found at www.txtaxholiday.org.

PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

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