and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
August #3

Sales tax holiday: So little time, so little savings
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, August 21 2008

This year I'm afraid I flunked "sales tax holiday."

As a taxpayer activist, I feel I have an obligation to my craft to take advantage of any tax break, no matter how silly it seems relative to my low-consumption lifestyle. So for the past few years, I have put off purchase of many basic household items like batteries and laundry detergent until mid-August, then bought a year's worth.

Last year I got really lucky when my refrigerator died just in time for me to replace it on the sales tax holiday.

This year I had big savings plans too. I'd decided to use my $600 federal tax refund to replace my 30-year-old kitchen floor; I put the money in my savings account until I could buy the vinyl tile without paying a sales tax. A double taxpayer coup!

I wasn't concerned when House Speaker Sal DiMasi gave the impression that this year there would be no holiday. I figured he just said that to discourage people like me from putting off purchases, slowing the already slow retail economy until the middle of August. I was pretty sure he'd let the holiday bill pass at almost the last minute, which he did.

But there were too many free hours spent in the hammock or watching the Olympics, and not enough spent organizing my shopping weekend. Then my nephew from a former marriage and his partner came from Scotland for a visit on Wednesday; they stayed in my guest room so I got invited to the family/friend meals and was too busy even to clip the small-purchase coupons for the weekend.

By the time I went to Home Depot last Friday, it was too late to schedule the professional kitchen measurement and get the estimate for the two types of vinyl flooring I was considering. Trisha, the very helpful woman in the flooring department, told me if I chose one I could pay for it on the weekend, but I just couldn't make up my mind until I learned the difference in price which in either case isn't so much as to be worth all the rushing around.

I once dreamed of that expensive terracotta tile, but now I realize I don't want to fall down on anything that hard when I am old; and also recall that I broke almost every glass and china dish I owned when I lived in Greece with its marble floors and counters. No, give me something I and my ceramic coffee mugs can bounce off.

When Sales Tax Holiday Saturday arrived, I had to skip it because of two political events. First was the annual Marblehead Republican Town Committee picnic at noon. They are nice enough to invite me even though as an Independent I'm not still technically part of that family either. Along with good company and food, I got a great deal on an iPod clock radio at the picnic auction. (Can I count that "bid purchase" towards my sales tax savings?)

I also picked up my "Jeff Beatty for U.S. Senate" bumper sticker, had a chat with 8th Essex state representative candidate Johnny Blaisdell, and met Richard Baker, who is running for Congress against Salem's John Tierney. And I noted to myself that electing the right people could save me more money than the sales tax holiday would!

So on to another event in Billerica for another state rep candidate, Tony Lucacio. No, I don't do every political function I'm invited to, preferring to focus on candidates in my home district; but this was a spaghetti dinner featuring my friend Sandy MacMillan's homemade spaghetti sauce! And Chip and I picked up his father on the way.

"Family and food" vs. "shopping and savings" on the weekend: not a tough choice so far.

Sales Tax Holiday Sunday arrived, a rare sunny day. We had planned to visit friends in Scituate, but Chip was still recovering from his solo sail to Chebeague Island in Maine's Casco Bay. He returns from even fair-weather cruises bruised and bleeding, and this vacation was filled with rain, lightning, fog and waves that forced him into ports along the coast, so his trip was longer than he had intended.

He spent Sales Tax Holiday Sunday on his boat airing and drying out the cabin and everything aboard, with I'm sure a nap thrown in during the afternoon.

The hammock beckoned and I have a moral dislike of shopping on Sunday anyhow. But I did need cat food, so I drove to PetSmart, where I also bought Gilgamesh a new scratching post my only "impulse" buy while replacing his collar for the third time this month.

Sales tax savings: $2.08. Spent it at Taco Bell.

Stopped at the drugstore for batteries, lotions, and new tapes for Olympic clips for my grandchildren, who don't have television. Saved $2.

Almost out of money because I didn't have time to go to the bank Saturday, so I could save only $1.85 on usually taxable items at Stop & Shop. Put it in the Jimmy Fund box.

On my way home, the car radio played "Summertime, and the livin' is easy," and so the sales tax holiday was over for me.

But as I write this my dishwasher is rumbling. I wonder if it will last until next August?

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.