At a press conference at Westfarms on Monday morning, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz joined officials and members of the business community to highlight tax-free week.
By Ronni Newton
Back-to-school has long been associated with buying for new clothes and new shoes, and for the 23rd year Connecticut is providing a “Sales Tax-Free Week,” during which an exemption from the sales and use tax applies for eligible items that cost less than $100 – no matter how many of those items are purchased.
Sales Tax-Free Week began on Sunday, Aug. 20, and will run through Saturday, Aug. 26.
“Connecticut families can save significantly as they prepare for back-top-school shopping,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said during a news conference Monday morning outside Westfarms, the mall that spans the towns of West Hartford and Farmington. One important factor that Bysiewicz mentioned, and said she didn’t know previously: items placed on layaway during tax-free week are also exempt from the state’s 6.35% tax on each payment made.
“Sales Tax-Free week is a wonderful opportunity for families to get their back-to-school shopping done and save money at the same time,” she said, adding a reminder to support hometown small businesses at the same time.
Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Mark Boughton noted that while the public is being encouraged to shop locally, “our online retailers are aware of it, so they can’t charge you tax online as well – same rule would apply.”
Boughton said this is one more way of helping working families across the state. “This fits in with a larger fabric of tax cuts that are happening this year,” he said.
Amanda Sirica, spokesperson for Westfarms, said Sales Tax-Free week “is our second busiest shopping time of the year at Westfarms mall, other than the holidays. Back-to-school season is a very big season for retailers.”
Sirica noted that Westfarms has more than 150 stores and restaurants, and 50 of those are unique brands just in this market – which helps the mall’s status as a destination for shoppers from throughout the state and region. And she noted that Westfarms is not just national brands. Many of the businesses are also “mom and pop” shops or Connecticut-based.
Inventory, sales, and promotions throughout Westfarms this week are intended to draw shoppers and offer savings, with many retailers pricing items so they will be eligible for tax-exempt status.
Bysiewicz said when they were raising their three children, she and her husband would wait for the tax-free week to purchase jeans, shoes, and other back-to-school attire, and Sirica, who has two children, said she personally waits to buy those staples as well.
Most items of clothing and footwear are eligible for the exemption as long as they cost less than $100 – including hats, jackets, sneakers, socks, fashion boots, and even bibs, aprons, and bandanas. Not included in the tax holiday is a shorter list of more specific items like sports uniforms and activity-specific footwear such as boots made for fishing or mountain climbing, roller skates, ballet shoes, or football cleats. Other still-taxed items include lobster bibs, party costumes, and athletic supporters. Click here for a list of examples of covered and not covered items.
Chris Conway, president and CEO of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, encouraged people to shop at Westfarms, as well with retailers in West Hartford’s other neighborhoods. “Once you’re done here, go out that driveway and take a left and head to our Elmwood neighborhood, maybe do some more shopping, grab a dessert. You can head to New Park to our Design District … You could go to Park Road, maybe eat again …” Conway said, touting West Hartford’s restaurants and other offerings.
“We don’t want this to be a single visit,” Conway said.
State Rep. Mike Demicco (D-Farmington) reiterated that tax-free week “is really a good complement to efforts we have made in the legislature over the last couple of years” to cut taxes. He and State Rep. Francis Cooley (R-Plainville), whose district includes parts of Farmington, encouraged families to shop, and to visit not only Westfarms, but also other local brick and mortar retailers.
“You don’t have to have children to take advantage of this opportunity,” Bysiewicz added. “The message is for Connecticut residents, this is the one week … where any eligible purchase does not have sales tax attached.” It’s also an opportunity for retailers to bring in new customers.
When asked about raising the threshold – which was previously $75 and increased to $100 several years ago – both Bysiewicz and Boughton said that’s something that could be discussed in the next legislative session.
“If we can afford it we’ll probably do it,” Boughton said.
“It’s not just about clothing and footwear shops, it’s about a lot of the things that families need,” said Bysiewicz. Many families will dedicate several hours, or a full day, to shopping – and they get hungry. “This is an opportunity to support all of the other businesses around our clothing and footwear shops,” she said.
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