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Sales tax holiday is on Friday and Saturday

Melinda Shaw, who owns two gift shops in Picayune that carry the name “Melinda’s,” says that the sales tax holiday on Friday and Saturday can afford some savings for shoppers, especially when coupled with additional sales promotions by merchants.

As usual, though, when the government does something, it can be complicated and generate extra work for merchants participating in the program.

However, she says she favors the program, and coupled with additional savings she gives, the holiday generates enough extra sales to make it worth it. “Actually, it is one of our best promotions of the year,” she told the Item.

The 48-hour tax holiday, begun by a state law passed in 2009 by the State Legislature, goes into effect this year at 12:01 a.m. Friday and runs through midnight Saturday.

The tax holiday, which exempts certain items from a seven percent state sales tax, is held at this time of year because many shoppers are purchasing back-to-school items, but the tax exemption does not apply to school supplies.

The exemption is applied mostly to clothing items priced at less than $100.

Some towns choose not to participate in the program because of the complicated nature and the extra work.

Both cities in Pearl River County, Poplarville and Picayune, are participating in the program.

However, statewide there are three cities that chose not to participate: Enterprise, Heidelberg and Crenshaw.

Picayune Chamber Director April Lovelace said she did not have an exact count on how many Chamber members here are participating, but added that she is directing merchants to the Mississippi Department of Revenue website for information about the program.

There one can find a four-page description of the program, showing what items qualify and those that don’t.

It’s mostly clothing and footwear that will be exempt from the state’s seven percent sales tax.

This is the fourth year the holiday has been implemented in Mississippi. When it was debated in the State Legislature, it was touted as a way of helping taxpayers with back-to-school purchases, but when it was finalized, school supplies were not exempt.

Additionally, Shaw pointed out that although the program exempts mostly apparel, many schools use uniforms, thus cutting back the need for many families to purchase large volumes of back-to-school clothing, as was once the case.

Still, Shaw supports the program. “The way things are now, every little bit helps,” she said.

Here’s some guidelines, as outlined by the state department of revenue’s website:

— Clothing and footwear are exempt; however, that’s only items that cost less than $100. Sport clothing, including cleats, is not eligible.

— Also, school supplies and computers are not eligible.

— Jewelry, handbags, luggage, wallets, watches and backpacks, goods that are called “accessories,” are not exempt.

— Store coupons, which reduce items below $100, qualify, but manufacturers’ coupons don’t.

There are definitions for “clothing,” “footwear,” and “accessories.”

Also, there are categories that require explanation, such as “eligible and noneligible items,” “$100 threshold,” “rentals of items,” “items sold as a unit,” “parings of eligible and non-eligible items,” “buy one, get one free or for a reduced price,” “discounts, coupons and rebates,” “layaway sales,” “mail, telephone and Internet sales,” “shipping and handling charges,” “rain checks,” and “refunds and exchange.”

In Louisiana, The Associated Press reported, a similar sales tax holiday takes effect Aug. 3-4. The exemption in Louisiana applies to the first $2,500 of the purchase price of eligible items. The Louisiana tax holiday does not apply to vehicles, meals, admission to events and taxable services such as hotel occupancy or rentals.

Louisiana officials are also encouraging shoppers in Louisiana to retain receipts for school supplies, uniforms and educational equipment required by schools, the AP reported.

These expenses may be eligible for tax deduction on 2012 Louisiana individual income tax returns due May 15, 2013.