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Steve Mullen: Tax holiday not perfect, but it’s a start

 

Steve Mullen

 

Happy holiday! 

 

The Second Most Wonderful Time of the Year -- the Legislature-imposed sales tax holiday -- will be upon us in nine short days, and yes, like an eager little kid, I''m counting the days. From 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 31, to midnight on Saturday, Aug. 1, I''ll be able to waltz into any five-and-dime or mega-mart in the state and buy some school supplies without having to pony up a single penny to the state Tax Commission. 

 

The holiday is timed to give a 7 percent break to consumers like you and me, we with the school-aged kids who find ourselves elbow to elbow in Wal-Mart before school starts, jockeying for the last pack of glue sticks and No. 2 pencils left on the racks. 

 

Oh wait -- no it isn''t. 

 

Unlike other states with these holidays, glue sticks and No. 2 pencils aren''t on the list of things Mississippi has exempted from sales tax. 

 

Nor are notebooks, binders, blunt-tipped scissors or crayons. In fact, nothing that my kids'' elementary school (and pretty much every other school in the state) is asking their students to have on Day One is covered. 

 

No, this sales tax holiday is just for "articles of clothing and footwear," covering items that are individually less than $100, according to the tax commission. Clothing, at a time when more and more schools are moving to uniforms, which more and more parents are buying either online or directly from the school. 

 

 

 

Only the essentials 

 

Still, luckily for us, many of those must-have items are on the list. 

 

Take, for example, "non-flotation fishing vests" -- fully covered and tax free on our back-to-school tax holiday. Even though it''s not on my or any other child''s school supply list, no one can argue that every kid should have a decent fishing vest. I don''t think it''s part of the acceptable uniform standard now in place at the school, but maybe it will come in handy as some type of homework garment; the kids can come home, strap it on and load it up with protractors and No. 2 pencils during their down time. 

 

(I assure you that in the spirit of the holiday, I''ll make sure they know it''s a "school" fishing vest, not a "play" fishing vest.) 

 

Thank goodness that raincoats and ponchos are covered under the new holiday, because umbrellas aren''t. I suppose if it''s really wet outside, we could spring for new swimsuits, which are covered. And while fishing vests are covered, flotation vests aren''t; good thing they can swim. (Yes, hunting vests are covered, in case you were wondering.) 

 

While the Legislature made sure to include hunting-related items, it probably goes without saying that backpacks and book bags aren''t covered. 

 

The rest of the list reads like Mississippi''s old "blue laws" in the ''80s, the good old days when you could buy "bullets and beer, but not socks and soup" on Sunday, as one report put it. 

 

For you dancers, leotards, tights and leg warmers are covered, but jazz and dance shoes aren''t. 

 

"Children''s novelty costumes" are covered. Get that Halloween shopping done early. 

 

"Safety shoes" are covered; safety clothing isn''t. 

 

Sweatsuits are covered; sweatbands aren''t. 

 

Baseball jerseys are covered; baseball pants aren''t. 

 

Soccer socks are covered; soccer shoes aren''t. 

 

Suspenders and neckties are covered; as are dress shoes and dress gloves. Work gloves aren''t. 

 

Graduation caps and gowns aren''t covered. (This is a back-to-school tax holiday, not a graduation tax holiday, after all.) 

 

 

 

Growing pains 

 

OK, so what if I have to buy all this real, actual back-to-school stuff (two 8 oz. bottles of Elmer''s glue; one package of lined index cards, etc.) and pony up the customary 7 percent. Nobody''s perfect. This is the first year of the sales tax holiday. There will be growing pains. It''s a long on-ramp. A shaky takeoff. Maybe we can tweak as we go. 

 

The Legislature did include a little tweaking room in the new tax holiday: After the first year, cities can petition to exempt themselves altogether from the tax-free day -- putting the full price back on everything, fishing vests and dress gloves included. 

 

Whatever; I''m already opting out. Just tell me where to find the No. 2 pencils. 

 

Steve Mullen is managing editor of The Dispatch. Reach him at smullen@cdispatch.com. 

 

 

Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.

 

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