Combined tax holiday affects big, small businesses

All Virginia residents will have the opportunity to go forth and stimulate the economy free of certain sales taxes during a combined tax holiday weekend that will last from 12:01 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Until this year, there was only a one-day tax holiday in August for school supplies, apparel and footwear. Single-day tax holidays in May and October have included hurricane preparedness items and energy efficient products respectively.

According to Joel Davidson, communications director for the Virginia Department of Taxation, the August holiday began in 2006, the October holiday in 2007 and the May holiday in 2008.

Earlier in 2015, the Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1319 to combine the three yearly holidays into one single weekend.

“The state does lose a fair amount of money to these holidays,” Davidson said. “This would help state revenue by consolidating like this.”

In addition to checking off items on back-to-school lists, shoppers can stock up on items for emergency preparations as well as Energy Star and WaterSense utility items. A more extensive list of qualified items can be found at http://www.tax.virginia.gov/content/sales-tax-holiday.

Shoppers can also beat the rush by ordering qualifying items online or by phone. As long as the buyer orders and pays for the items during the holiday period, the buyer won’t have to pay the usual sales tax on them.

Philip and Kendra Brewer, co-owners of Wilkins’ Shoe Center at the Loudon Street Pedestrian Mall in Winchester, both agreed that the tax-free weekend is their busiest time of year – neck and neck with the weekend before Christmas. Philip Brewer said they have to make sure all their full- and part-time employees are out when they’re open on Friday and Saturday to fit and sell shoes to families with children heading back to school.

Shenandoah Chamber of Commerce executive director Cheri Wright said the combination holiday will not only be a good opportunity for students and teachers to stock up on supplies. Consumers tend to postpone purchasing energy efficient appliances like air conditioners for the summer heat because of higher prices.

“This is a good way for people to upgrade their homes or get different things,” she said. “Hopefully this will help them by just taking care of those little things that are pushed aside.”

Wright said that big-box stores will probably see the most weekend business, but Kendra Brewer said there is still plenty of support for small stores selling qualifying items.

“I just feel like a lot of people now are looking at supporting the mom and pop shops more than they are the department stores,” she said. “And anytime they can get out of the tax, they are all about that.”

The holiday weekend will occur again next year, but it’s set to expire in July 2017. Until then, Davidson said consumers will need to listen for updates on the Virginia tax holidays.

“That’ll be up to the General Assembly — if they don’t take action, there will only be one more,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see on that.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com