Consumers in Maryland can shop tax-free this week through Saturday in an annual event timed for back-to-school shopping.
During the annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free week, purchases of any qualifying apparel or footwear item priced at $100 or less will be exempt from the state's 6 percent sales tax. The tax exemption applies regardless of the number of items bought.
For the first time this year, the first $40 of a backpack or bookbag also will be exempt from the tax. Accessories and school supplies are not included.
"Tax-free week provides a much-needed boost to brick-and-mortar retailers in our state, and we encourage all consumers to support their local businesses," said Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, in an announcement.
Some examples of items that qualify as tax-free include sweaters, shirts, slacks, jeans, dresses, robes, underwear, belts, shoes and boots priced at $100 or less. If discounts or coupons reduce the sale price of a single item to $100 or less, it still would qualify as tax-free.
For online sales, purchases might qualify if the merchandise is both paid for and delivered to the customer during the tax-free period, or if the customer orders and pays for the item and the retailer accepts the order for immediate shipment, even if it is delivered later.
Back-to-school and back-to-college spending is expected to reach more than $83 billion in the United States, a more than 10 percent jump from last year's spending, the National Retail Federation said.
Spending for elementary through high school students is projected to reach its second-highest level on record, $29.5 billion, or an average $687.72 each, an 8 percent increase from last year. Spending for college students is expected to hit an all-time high, reaching $54.1 billion, or an average of $969.88 per family.
"Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy," said Matthew Shay, the retail group's president and CEO, in a statement. "With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year."
The Maryland retailers group plans to offer two scholarships in conjunction with the tax-free event to winners of a social media contest taking place this week. The scholarships, for $1,500 and $500, can be used at any Maryland university, college or trade school.
Shoppers who "like" or follow official social media pages on Facebook, at Shop Maryland Tax Free; on Twitter, at @shopmdtaxfree, and on Instagram, at @shopmdtax free, are asked to take a photo, write a caption and use the #shopmdtaxfree hashtag to submit an entry showing the spirit of tax-free shopping.
"This year, Marylanders can not only save money during tax-free week, but they have the opportunity to win a big scholarship, while supporting local businesses," Comptroller Peter Franchot said in an announcement.