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Baker files legislation asking for August sales tax holiday

Gov. Charlie Baker wants to declare a sales tax holiday for Aug. 19 and 20, which retailers say boosts sales.
gov. charlie baker, charlie baker, massachusetts governor
Gov. Charlie Baker. File Photo

Gov. Charlie Baker is filing legislation Wednesday declaring a sales tax holiday for the weekend of Aug. 19 and Aug. 20.

"The sales tax holiday gives consumers a much needed break and supports business across the Commonwealth for our hardworking retailers," Baker said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the Legislature to make this important weekend possible, so the Commonwealth can shop local and make purchases tax free."

"We've heard from a lot of folks who said to us that this is really important to them," Baker added in a WBZ radio interview. "It's important to downtowns, it's important to main streets."

News of Baker's plan to file the tax holiday bill came on the same day Baker announced he'd sign an employer-based health care assessment, a proposal that businesses have likened to a new tax.

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The proposal's fate is uncertain since the House and Senate are on summer recess and if a sales tax holiday bill were to make it to the floor, a single lawmaker could block its progress with a mere objection.

"The bill will be sent to the appropriate committee for review and I will await their recommendations. The Commonwealth's fiscal situation has not really changed," Senate President Stan Rosenberg said in a statement.

The two-day break from the state's 6.25 percent sales tax has been signed into law in 11 of the past 13 years and is cheered by retailers who say it boosts their sales during an otherwise slow period.

Lawmakers eschewed the idea last year, pointing to sluggish revenue growth, and some lawmakers view the holiday as a gimmick.

Similar bills establishing tax holidays this year are before the Revenue and Economic Development committees. The House and Senate broke for their summer recesses last week without acting on those bills.

"It really is important to our membership," Bill Rennie of the Massachusetts Association of Retailers said at a July 18 Economic Development Committee hearing. "The retail landscape, as we all know, is changing. Our members compete every day with New Hampshire and with online sellers, sellers like Ebay and Overstock who do not charge sales tax. We've been fighting for decades now to try to get a level playing field with regards to sales tax collection. Until we reach that point, somewhere in the future hopefully, the sales tax holiday at least has provided a two-day equalizer."

 
 
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