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Shoppers take advantage of Maryland's tax-free holiday

Shoppers in Maryland showed up at area malls and other retail outlets in large numbers Sunday, the first day of the state's Tax Free Week.

The holiday from state sales tax for most clothing and footwear priced under $100 was an incentive to spend and an added bonus this time of year, said parents goingback-to-schoolshopping with their kids.

"I say every dollar counts," said Kristin Ganoe of Hagerstown, who was shopping atMacy's at the Mall in Columbia with her husband, Roman, and daughter Gabriella, who's going into the third grade.

Ganoe said she often shops at Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia but stayed in Maryland this weekend because of the tax break.

Aimee and Ron Barbagallo of Columbia arrived with their 4-year-old twin girls, Abby and Lilly, at JCPenney for the store's offer of free haircuts for children but decided to do some clothes shopping as well because of the break, they said.

Having twins means buying everything twice, so special deals make a difference, Ron Barbagallo said.

"When you have two, it certainly helps," he said.

The tax holiday, which runs through Saturday and lets shoppers make purchases without paying Maryland's 6 percent sales tax, was approved by the state's General Assembly in 2007 and took effect in 2010. State Comptroller Peter Franchot said last week that it costs the state about $10 million in lost revenue but "more than pays for itself in increased sales" as shoppers purchase non-tax-free items as well.

Maryland retailers have reported a jump in sales during the tax holiday in past years, and Franchot has suggested it should be expanded to include additional back-to-school items, as several other states do with their tax-free weeks.

Shoppers at area malls Sunday — where lines were long and parking was tough to find — said the more breaks the better, but were happy with the deal on clothing and shoes.

"It's a great incentive. Thank the state," said Karen Rosales of Silver Spring, who was shopping at Nordstrom in Columbia with friend Ellen Ivey and their daughters, Ashley Rosales and Maddie Ivey, who are soon-to-be freshmen at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.

Rosales, who works in Virginia, said she'd heard about Maryland's tax holiday from co-workers who'd taken advantage of Virginia's own three-day sales tax break earlier this month.

"I said, 'Oh, I wish we had one of those in Maryland,' and someone said, 'You do!'" she said.

Maddie Ivey of Baltimore said she and her mother learned of the holiday when they went to shop at Towson Town Center Mall on Saturday.

"I was like, 'Oh, my God, Mom, look,'" she said of noticing a sign announcing the sales break. It was enough for them to put off making purchases until Sunday, she said.

At Arundel Mills mall in Hanover, Tracey Schott of Baltimore was shopping with her daughter Danielle, who is going into the ninth grade, and son Noah, who is entering the sixth. Each of her children had a bag with new clothes in hand.

"I think it's a big help," Schott said of the tax break, "because we probably spent about $250 today and we didn't have to pay any taxes on it."

Rachel Sholar of Elkridge, who was shopping at Old Navy in the mall with daughters Tania and Annie, who are going into ninth grade and seventh grade, respectively, said the family was recently on vacation in Ocean City and made a special back-to-school shopping trip up the coast to Delaware to take advantage of that state's lack of a sales tax.

To have Maryland go the same route, if only for a week, is a nice treat just before school starts up again, Sholar said.

"It's always good to get something new for back-to-school," she said as her daughters smiled shyly. "Just for the fun of it."

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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