Did Someone Say Tax Holiday?

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Tyrades! by Danny Tyree

The Tyree family recently took advantage of our state’s eagerly anticipated annual sales tax holiday on school supplies, clothing and electronics.

Eagerly anticipated as in my wife taking the Charlton Heston role of promoting delayed gratification and leading us to the Promised Land. (“I know you feel like you’ve been wandering around in the same socks and underwear for 40 years, but just wait a few more months and it’ll be worth it!”)

We also celebrated a week-long repeat of 2020’s moratorium on taxing restaurant food. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures to order from the dollar menu and know you’ll be paying in even dollar amounts. (Well, paying in even dollar amounts and lifespan. Hold on – some cholesterol oozed onto my keyboard.)

Seriously, the holiday gave me a chance to recover from tone-deaf restaurant commercials for $4.99 deals. (“Tickle your tastebuds with an FDA-tentatively-approved meat-adjacent product and still have change left from a five!”) No, genius announcer, here in the Real World, we must scrounge up loose change to go with the five! If the state is looking for some shovel-ready projects, I think your skull should be Priority One.

In case you’re wondering (and if you’re NOT wondering, I’ve failed in my duty to pique your interest and deserve to continue wearing those holey Fruit of the Looms), 17 states have some sort of tax holiday this year. Five don’t have a sales tax to start with. And the other 28 justify their non-participation with some combination of running a tight fiscal ship, rewarding their citizens in other ways or muttering, “That ‘you deserve a break today’ jingle always got stuck in my head, anyway!”

I suspect that more states would initiate a tax holiday, but they’re squeamish about the religious connotations of the word “holiday.” Maybe some governor can devise more palatable terminology, such as “Pssst! Don’t Tell the State Comptroller, But I Can Get You Those Camping Supplies for Six Percent Less Weekend.”

How about a campaign declaring, “A wise man will take advantage of the Winter Solstice of Savings. No, not a wise man. Forget I said that. Good grief, they’re going to crucify me. No, not crucify…”?

Some states convince themselves that tax holidays stimulate the economy, but research by the Federal Reserve indicates that consumers simply shift the timing of purchases they were already going to make. This is known as “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” and I’m sure policymakers are working on a brand-new tax on robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The only bright spot in the days after a sales tax holiday ends is sales of Excedrin, for people smacking themselves on the forehead and moaning, “I could’ve saved $20 on that computer yesterday. Why didn’t somebody besides the newspaper, TV, radio, email and billboards TELL me about a sales tax holiday?”

Yes, I read an article denouncing tax holidays as an inefficient, ineffective gimmick. Still, it would be less messy than other state gimmicks, such as that cage fight between the Official State Cephalopod and the DMV’s finest.

Perhaps sales tax holidays ARE a distraction from serious year-round tax reform; but if your state doesn’t have one, you might explore the topic. If it does, make the most of it. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

“Gift horse…looking…mouth…tax…hello, new revenue stream! Legislature, let’s part the red (ink) sea!”

Copyright 2021 Danny Tyree, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”