Tax-free shopping starts Sunday

Maryland stands to lose about $5 million in tax revenue next week.

And that's just fine with the state's chief tax collector, Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Franchot said the state's annual tax-free shopping week, which starts Sunday, gives a boost to consumers and Maryland retailers at the height of the back-to-school season.

The comptroller arrived at Mondawmin Mall Friday to kick off Shop Maryland week. Then with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake along to offer advice, the comptroller went shopping at the mall's Shoe City and bought socks.

"It's a huge incentive for Maryland consumers," and a boost for the state's economy, Franchot said. "People in a tough economy are looking for whatever small bargain they can get."

During the tax holiday, which runs Sunday morning through midnight Aug. 16, consumers will be spared the state's 6 percent sales tax on any single qualifying article of clothing or footwear priced at $100 or less, regardless of how many items are purchased. The week has historically been the second biggest shopping week of the year for Maryland retailers, who plan special promotions timed to the tax-free event.

"It's an opportunity for people to come in and be reintroduced to their local stores," said Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, who said the retail sector is the state's largest private employer with more than 400,000 workers.

Rawlings-Blake encouraged consumers to do their shopping at Mondawmin, the city mall where she shopped for Easter outfits and visited Santa as a child and one that has since undergone a "renaissance," with renovations and expansions.

"Because of tax-free shopping week, many families trying to stretch their dollars have assistance," she said.

The tax holiday has been scheduled for the second week in August each summer since the General Assembly passed authorizing legislation in 2007. A list of qualifying items is available at the Comptroller's website.

"We love the fact it brings people away from their computers to the bricks and mortar to experience what we have at the mall," said Romaine Smallwood-Smoot, Mondawmin's general manager.

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