Oklahoma's second "Back-to-School" sales tax holiday will be this weekend, and the law's chief proponent says the holiday will boost the economy and benefit families struggling with high energy prices.
"Last year, the sales tax holiday performed exactly as many of us predicted: it boosted retail sales by a whopping $100 million for the month of August," said Senator Jay Paul Gumm, who fought for years to pass the measure. "The holiday will do the same this year."
Under the law, state, county and municipal sales tax is removed on sales of each item of clothing and footwear costing less than $100. The tax-free event begins 12:01 a.m. Friday and runs through midnight Sunday.
"Oklahoma families got to keep more of their money, spending it on items they need rather than coughing it up in the form of a regressive sales tax," Gumm said. "The sales tax holiday is good policy that made good sense for families and retail businesses."
A Democrat from Durant, Gumm was an author of the bill in 2007 that created the "Back-to-School" sales tax holiday. He helped shepherd the measure through the Legislature, taking on opponents who argued that it would reduce state and local revenues.
Last year, state officials estimate that shoppers saved $6.4 million in state sales tax along with millions more in county and local sales taxes. Despite the tax cut, state sales tax revenues jumped by $4.6 million last August. The revenue increase, Gumm said, was a direct result of the tax holiday.
One newspaper called it "a great idea for Oklahoma families, and one of the most taxpayer-friendly moves the State Legislature has made in decades." According to news reports from across the state, retail groups and chambers of commerce put together promotions to make the most of the three-day shopping event.
The Oklahoma law was based on the Texas "Back-to-School" sales tax holiday, and was originally planned to be the same weekend and on the same items as the Texas event. However, two weeks after the Oklahoma law was signed, the Texas Legislature moved the Texas event to later in the month, meaning Oklahoma has the first weekend in August all to itself.
Last year, many retailers reported Texans crossed into Oklahoma to make back-to-school purchases, giving Oklahoma an even greater boost. Also, in northern parts of Oklahoma, retailers reported many Kansas residents crossed the state line to take advantage of the holiday.
"The sales tax holiday performed exactly as many of us predicted," Gumm said. "We kept Oklahomans shopping in our hometowns, attracted shoppers from other states, kept our economic strength at home, and boosted our economy. That's a 'win-win' that continues to be in the best interest of our state's future."
For a complete list of tax-free items and answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the three-day event, Gumm said Oklahomans can check the Oklahoma Tax Commission's website at: http://www.tax.ok.gov/stholiday.html.