Our View: If only the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday was like the one for guns

July 26, 2018 10:50:23 AM

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This weekend, Mississippi will celebrate the annual Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday, although as celebrations go it's more like Flag Day than Independence Day, and for good reason. 

 

As it has been since the Legislature approved the measure in 2009, the holiday exempts purchases of specific items from the state's 7-percent sales tax, although the benefits of this holiday remain limited. 

 

The sales tax exemption only applies to clothing and shoes priced at less than $100 per item. So, if a parent spent $200 on school clothes this weekend, the savings would amount to just $14. Excuse us if we are not simply overwhelmed with gratitude. 

 

While it is true that every dollar saved matters to many parents in a state where 1-in-5 people live in poverty, the sales-tax break could be -- and should be -- far more meaningful if the tax applied to other items that our school children not only need, but are required to have. 

 

Each year, parents are provided with a list of school supplies they are expected to purchase for their children -- everything from pencils to paper to paste. But none of those items are exempted from the tax. Neither are things such as back-packs and computers. 

 

The criticism of the limits on the sales tax holiday have been around as long as the holiday itself. Yet the legislators consistently ignore those complaints. Somehow our legislators are under the impression that helping make sure our kid don't show up at school naked and bare-foot is about as far as they should be willing to go. 

 

Their indifference is particularly galling when you consider how the Legislature crafted the state's other sales tax holiday. Five years ago, the Legislature approved Mississippi Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday, a nod to the gun-rights activists and the NRA. 

 

Like the back-to-school holiday, the state's 7-percent sales tax is waived for purchases of guns and fishing supplies. 

 

Unlike the back-to-school holiday, the Second Amendment holiday applies to a wide range of purchases -- everything from guns, ammo, crossbows to fishing poles. 

 

The list of purchases that qualify far exceeds the list of items excluded from the tax. 

 

What's true of one tax should be true of the other. 

 

As it is, the differences in how these two sales tax holidays are constructed speaks volumes about what our legislators value -- and what they kind of, sort of value. 

 

In its defense, the Legislature is at least consistent on this point. As it is with education funding, the prevailing mood in the Legislature is "let's do as little as possible to create the illusion that we support our schools." 

 

Pardon us, then, if we don't feel much like celebrating this weekend.