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Sales tax holidays are nothing to celebrate

“ Retailers look for lift over tax-free weekend” (Business, Aug. 3) reminded readers that a sales tax holiday is around the corner, and gave the retail perspective about the holiday, but forgot to ask whether these holidays are worthwhile.

While sales tax holidays are billed as a way to give consumers a break, a two-day holiday is little more than a political gimmick. Governor Patrick has said as much, calling them “popular” but not “prudent.” Sales tax holidays are too fleeting and too poorly targeted to make a difference for hard-hit families. They offer too little relief and require consumers to shop when the state says so.


On top of that, there’s evidence that retailers sometimes jack up their prices during the high-traffic shopping holiday so that the deals consumers think they’re getting aren’t always as good as advertised.

Politicians support these sideshows hoping to distract their constituents from tax systems that were designed with the interests of much wealthier taxpayers in mind. But we should not accept tax-free weekends as a replacement for the types of real reforms that clean out unnecessary breaks at the top and solve the problems that will still be there, long after this year’s sales tax holidays have passed.

Kelly Davis
Midwest director
Institute on Taxation
and Economic Policy
Whitewater, Wisc.