July 17, 2018
Politics & Opinion
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Enjoy A Longer Summer, Shop Tax-Free And Win A Scholarship

Peter Franchot
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August 9, 2017

In years past, the start of August meant counting down the waning days of summer – a final family trip to Ocean City or Deep Creek Lake, a few more afternoons cooling off at the pool, one last visit to Camden Yards or the Maryland Zoo, and the inevitable last-minute back-to-school shopping sprint.

But this year, thanks to many years of advocacy from parents, teachers, students and business owners, we’re finally letting summer be summer! In all but a few counties, Maryland public schools won’t start until after Labor Day.

As the first day of school has lurched ever earlier and the end of the year has dragged later into June in recent years, I have long advocated this sensible policy change to allow families to spend more time together, to give students and teachers a well-deserved vacation, and to provide a boost to Maryland businesses.

Not to mention, this commonsense policy change enjoyed strong support from more than 70 percent of Marylanders, more than 50 Republican and Democratic state legislators, and was recommended by a nonpartisan task force convened by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Governor Larry Hogan, who saw the many obvious benefits of this policy and signed an executive order last August requiring public schools to start after Labor Day.

That executive order also requires schools to wrap up by June 15, meaning a more compact academic year, and less interruption of learning sprinkled throughout the calendar. Moreover, there is no change to the bottom line – school will still be in session for the same 180 days as always and students will continue to receive the best education in the country, thanks to our incredibly talented and dedicated teachers and administrators.

So when you’re deciding what to do before summer officially comes to a close, consider heading to the beach (or the mountains) if you can, take in the sights at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium, visit a museum or just support our state’s economy by going out to dinner or sprucing up your wardrobe at one of our great retailers.

Speaking of shopping, August also means it’s time for Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week. This year, it runs from Sunday, August 13, through Saturday, August 19. During the week, any single qualifying article of clothing or footwear priced $100 or less — regardless of how many items are purchased in a transaction — will be exempt from the state’s 6 percent sales tax.

I’m excited to announce two new elements to tax-free week this year. First, backpacks and bookbags have been added to the list of tax-exempt items; however, it only applies to the first $40 of the purchase, so you still have to pay tax on the balance if the price exceeds $40.

Second, we’ve launched a new social media contest giving Marylanders a chance to win either a $500 or a $1,500 scholarship to any Maryland university, college or trade school, courtesy of the Maryland Retailers Association, our tax-free week partners.

Leading up to and during tax-free week, shoppers should like or follow our official social media pages on Facebook (“Shop Maryland Tax Free”), Twitter (@shopmdtaxfree) and Instagram (@shopmdtaxfree).

Then, during tax-free week, take a picture of your purchase or something that reflects the spirit of the annual event, write a creative caption and use #shopmdtaxfree on any or all of our social media platforms to enter.

After the conclusion of tax-free week, the Maryland Retailers Association will select the two entries that best capture the essence and benefits of Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.

You’ll find tax-free products in chain stores and small, independent retailers alike; many merchants offer additional discounts to provide big savings that keeps more money in your pocket.

As a vigorous promoter of Maryland-based businesses, I certainly encourage you to shop local when possible to give these brick-and-mortar shops the end-of-summer sales boost they rely on.

And remember, it only takes a few clicks on your phone to be eligible for the scholarships. Be sure to check out the Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest information. You can also visit www.marylandtaxes.com or call 1-800-MD-TAXES for a full list of tax-exempt items.

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