By the time August rolls around, many of us are trying to savor the last days of summer and prepare for the coming school year. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the rhythms of our lives, forcing us to adapt to a new routine.
But in a world of uncertainty, one thing that remains the same is the occurrence of Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.
This year, it runs Sunday, August 9, through Saturday, August 15, and it offers big savings for customers, scholarship opportunities for college and trade school students and a boost for retailers who have endured a difficult sales year.
During the week, shoppers are exempt from paying the 6% sales tax on any qualified article of clothing and footwear costing $100 or less — regardless of how many items are purchased in a single transaction. The first $40 of any backpack is also tax free.
Although Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week is commonly associated with back-to-school shopping because of the time of year, the tax-free savings apply to shoppers of all ages, whether you want to freshen up your outdoor apparel or find a shirt that matches your virtual office background. And while most kids may not be in the classroom this fall, one thing COVID-19 cannot do is stop our kids from growing out of their clothes and shoes. So, if you’re like most parents, you may be shopping for a few new things for the kids.
When you’re making those purchases, it’s more important than ever to shop local to support the small retailers that are the backbone of our state and local economies. These are the businesses that are continuing to pay employees who are our family, friends or neighbors, creating safe environments for customers and finding innovative ways to sell their products during a global pandemic.
We have personally spoken to numerous owners and there’s no sugarcoating it — they’re hurting, even those who have received grant and loan assistance to survive the initial downturn.
Sales receipts are essential to keeping the lights on, which is why there’s no better time to support your local retailer than during Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week. They’re doing everything possible to make customers feel safe shopping in person, and are, in many cases, offering curbside pickup, online ordering and delivery of products. Many stores offer additional discounts during the week, compounding the savings for shoppers.
To borrow from a famous infomercial, “But wait, there’s more!”
The Maryland Retailers Association is once again offering scholarships to two students attending a Maryland university, college or trade school ($1,000 for first place and $500 for second place) by explaining how they helped a Maryland business during the pandemic. Examples might include building or redesigning a website, creating unique social media content or working long hours to fulfill online orders.
The University System of Maryland has agreed to match the $1,000 scholarship award if a student attending one of its institutions wins. Administrators at Stevenson University, Hood College and the Maryland Institute for College Art (MICA) have also agreed to match the $1,000 prize if one of their students is selected.
Entries may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or they can be posted on social media, using #shopmdtaxfree. Business owners, coworkers, family and friends are encouraged to nominate someone who has helped out. Students may also self-nominate.
We want to hear how young people have stepped up during these tough times. They are the leaders of tomorrow and they deserve our gratitude today.
For more information about Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, including a list of tax-exempt items and frequently asked questions, visit www.marylandtaxes.gov. And be sure to follow the Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Stay safe and shop local!
Peter Franchot is the comptroller of Maryland.
Cailey Locklair is president of the Maryland Retailers Association.