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No Taxes Equal Longer Lines

Burke shoppers found full parking lots and crowded stores during the state’s tax holiday, Aug. 4-6.

Shoppers flocked to stores to take advantage of the state’s tax holiday, Aug. 4-6, but some wished they hadn’t gone shopping on the popular, and very crowded, shopping day.

The tax holiday provided shoppers with three days of tax-free items meeting the state’s guidelines. Schools supplies costing $20 or less per item, and clothing and footwear costing $100 or less per article or pair were the only items exempt from taxes by the state. Some stores took advantage of the holiday by offering tax-free products that didn’t meet the state’s criteria. They were allowed to do this because of the tax holiday, but had to pay the taxes on all of the items themselves. That’s why stores like Circuit City and Best Buy got away with selling electronics and furniture without tax, said Joel Davison, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Taxation.

“They pay the tax themselves and rely on volume [of their sales],” said Davison. “It looks like it paid off for them.”

He said a lot of those stores experienced high volumes over the weekend, and in Burke, it was obvious. The parking lot at Wal-Mart was nearly full on Saturday. Shoppers loaded their cars with shopping bags while drivers waited for their parking spaces in order to take advantage of the five percent discount. John Foradori, an assistant manager at Wal-Mart, said the store was so busy they had to pull sales associates off the floor to help ring people up at the registers.

“I wish I had known [about the tax holiday] and I wouldn’t have come,” said Kathy Holloway, a shopper at the Burke Wal-Mart on Saturday.

Many brought their children to purchase school supplies, but a lot of shoppers took advantage of purchasing the more expensive items. Wal-Mart sold computers and other electronics tax-free because they paid the tax bill for what was sold. Since a law prevents stores from paying the taxes on purchased items the rest of the year, said Davison, the tax holiday gave stores a way to increase sales by lifting the law for the three day period.

The Department of Taxation kept their call center open until 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 4, to answer questions about the holiday. Davison said they received 172 calls that night, but only 50 calls the next day. The department will look at the nature of those calls and make necessary adjustments to next year’s tax holiday guidelines, said Davison.

Many shoppers said the holiday was nice, but they didn’t see a huge difference in the grand total of their purchase. At Kohl’s department store some shoppers didn’t even notice the tax break. Karen Quimby, of Fairfax, pulled out her receipt and saw she saved just over $3 on her clothes. “It’s not a whole heck of a lot,” she said. Quimby’s friend, Janet Whitmore, was in town from Massachusetts, and said she enjoys tax-free food and clothes daily in her state. “They’re necessities,” said Whitmore.

But for some parents, the tax break helps when purchasing so many school supplies and new clothes. Seema Williams spent more than $250 on back-to-school items for her 11-year-old daughter, Divya. She said she came shopping that weekend because of the savings. Another mother, Vy Nguygen, said her son is too small for school supplies, but she was going to tell her sister about the holiday so she could benefit from the savings.

“It [the tax holiday] was a great thing; an added bonus,” said Ruth Azimi, a Burke Wal-Mart shopper.