Monthlong School Supply Shopping Tax Holiday Proposed

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New York City, is pictured speaking during a recent news conference. Submitted photo

State Sen. George Borrello isn’t the only state lawmaker who wants to lessen sales tax on back-to-school supplies.

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New York City, has introduced legislation (A.10712) to establish a sales tax exemption for school supplies purchased between the fourth Thursday in August and the first Monday in September each year. Zebrowski’s proposed exemption would apply to computers with a sales price of less than $3,000, art supplies, including but not limited to clay, paints, paint brushes and drawing pads; and supplies normally used in a classroom setting, including but not limited to backpacks, binders, book bags, calculators under $300, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, highlighters, lunch boxes, markers, notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, rulers, scissors and writing instruments.

“At the start of every school year, parents are required to purchase a long list of goods to prepare their children for the new year,” Zebrowski wrote in his legislative memorandum. “Across the country, states have enacted tax holidays to lower the burden of this annual expense, however New York has no such exemption. With the rising costs of goods, this bill will provide much-needed relief for families.”

Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, introduced S.9541 recently to boost the tax exemption from $110 to $250. Currently, clothing and footwear sold for less than $110 per item or pair and items used to make or repair clothing are exempt from New York state’s 4% sales and use taxes. The exemption does not apply to local sales and use taxes unless the county or city imposing the taxes elects to provide the exemption.

Chautauqua County is one of the counties that also exempts eligible clothing and footwear costing less than $110. Both Cattaraugus County and the cities of Olean and Salamanca collect their 4% sales tax on clothes and shoes sold for less than $110.

“The current tax exemption on clothing and footwear has not been adjusted since 1998, nearly 25 years ago, when it was set at $110,” Borrello wrote in his legislative justification. “Due to the increase in costs to produce these items, as well as the recent jump in inflation, this number should be adjusted to $250 to help our businesses and encourage purchases of these products here in New York state. There is currently no tax on clothing or footwear in Pennsylvania, putting our business and residents at a significant disadvantage.”

According to the Associated Press, a basket of roughly a dozen supply items showed a price increase of nearly 15% on average for this back-to-school season compared with a year ago, according to retail analytics firm DataWeave. The price of backpacks are up nearly 12% to an average of $70, for example.

The AP also reported Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending across all payment forms including cash, forecasts back-to-school spending will be up 7.5% from July 14 through Sept. 5 compared with the year-ago period when sales rose 11%. For the 2020 back-to-school period, sales fell 0.8% as the pandemic wreaked havoc on schools’ reopening plans and back-to-school shopping.


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