Tax break sends mixed message to motorists
Portfolio tax tweaking can help ease market madness

Tax holiday time in TX & CT;
Improperly collected taxes in MO

We had to wait a bit longer here in Texas for our sales tax holiday, but it finally arrives tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 17, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 19.

The event used to be earlier in the month, like most of the 15 other tax holidays across the country, but it was moved this year to the third weekend in August. The shift puts retailers' back-to-school sales pitches closer to the start of the academic year.

Texas_tax_holiday_2007_2 During these three days, Lone Star State shoppers won't pay any state or local sales taxes on most clothing and footwear costing less than $100. Details on exactly what does and doesn't qualify for the exemption can be found at the state comptroller's sales-tax holiday Web page.

Technically, these holidays officially start in the middle of night, when the clock ticks past midnight into the first of the holiday days; they run until midnight of the ending date. I haven't seen any Austin retailers offering midnight tax-holiday madness sales, but several that sell products that aren't on the tax-free list are making special offers.

One furniture store, for example, says it will cut the price of all its items by 8.25 percent, the total combined state/local sales tax rate here in Austin. Other businesses are just holding sales in general, hoping that the priming of the no-sales-tax pump will get folks in a spending move regardless of product.

That's one of the arguments against the holidays, that they encourage people to overspend, even when they buy tax-free goods. It's a valid point, but sometimes the consumer just has to be responsible. And to my fellow Texans, I say if you can save a few bucks with careful tax-free shopping, then be sure to hit the stores early tomorrow.

Connecticut cutting taxes out, too: I have a cousin in the Nutmeg State. I don't know if Joe is that big of a shopper, but he and his wife do have a teenage daughter, so maybe Connecticut's sales-tax holiday will save them a few pennies, too.

Connecticut's sales tax holiday begins Sunday, Aug.19, and runs for a week, through Saturday, Aug. 25. Items included in this event are apparel costing less than $300. Get the details at the state's official Web page.

More to come: A couple of states and the District of Columbia will be holding additional tax holidays in a few months. Virginia and Georgia will exempt energy efficient products; D.C.'s second no-tax event will be similar to its August one, just timed for holiday shopping.

You can find more on these upcoming tax holidays, including links to the official Web pages, in this previous blog post.

Welcome_to_missourimissouri_2 Miscollected sales taxes in Missouri: The Show Me State had its sales tax holiday in early August. However, state officials are now having to show investigators how come the state held on to millions of dollars in overpaid taxes from consumers who shopped and dined in the state for the past five years.

According to news reports, in 2002 the state stopped notifying businesses when the companies overpaid sales and use taxes. Missouri was scrapped for money at the time and the excess tax cash apparently was too good to pass up.

After the Associated Press noticed an unusual spike in Missouri's fiscal 2007 sales tax refunds and started asking questions, state officials 'fessed up.

The state has quietly paid part of the improperly collected sales tax money back to businesses. But because of state law, most consumers never will see even a penny of those sales tax refunds.

Missouri businesses are not required to to return sales tax refunds to the people who paid them. The argument is that it would be time-consuming and costly, if not impossible, for a retailer to determine how much was due each customer.

A former state legislator says that's bull, noting that with most consumers now purchasing by credit and debit cards, most retailers could track down the affected sales relatively easily and could return the money to the buyers who paid it.

If Missouri lawmakers aren't inclined to change the law -- efforts to do so have failed repeatedly -- they should at least consider multiple sales tax holidays as a make-good effort.


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