Massachusetts sales tax-free weekend begins Saturday

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During the pandemic, sales tax collections grew by eight percent, Hurst said, but most of that spending went to businesses outside of Massachusetts who have shops on the Internet. The sales tax holiday is a chance to spend that money close to home, and keep local businesses going, he said.

“We’re just trying to have consumers do a little bit of a reset,” said Hurst, who encouraged online shoppers to consider buying from Massachusetts businesses.

Under state rules, the 6.25 percent sales tax is off the table Saturday and Sunday for most retail items under $2,500 each. Items not eligible for the tax break include meals, cars, boats, utilities, tobacco and marijuana products, and alcoholic beverages.

Consumers who buy multiple eligible items each priced below $2,500 get the full benefit of the tax exemption even if the total bill exceeds that sum, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Shoppers can get a sales tax break on online purchases, too, as long as they buy from a business that normally sells in Massachusetts and is subject to the sales tax.

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The tax holiday only applies to shoppers buying items for personal use, so companies or individuals buying items for business use will still need to pay a sales tax.

Governor Charlie Baker established the sales tax holiday in 2018 as an annual event that would take place over one weekend in August. It’s intended to encourage people to shop and boost local businesses.

In June, Baker proposed that the state use its budget surplus to fund a two-month break on sales taxes, but lawmakers rejected his plan.

On Newbury Street, Kris Shah, 34, said she timed her visit to luxury jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels to coincide with the sales tax hiatus.

“We knew it was tax free weekend today,” she said, “so we’ve been planning to come here.”

Shah said she stayed away from brick-and-mortar retailers last summer, but this year is different.

“I feel safe, being vaccinated and masked and everything.” she said.

At Shreve, Crump & Low, the temporary sales tax break offered one engaged couple the opportunity to buy the wedding bands they plan to exchange when they marry in October. The business has opted to forgive the sales tax on purchases throughout August and lift the $2,500 cap on many items.

The couple, Caroline Huber and Eugene Johnston, said they weren’t aware of the sales tax holiday until they visited the jeweler last week.

“We’re a little late picking out the rings, but we knew what we wanted so it didn’t take long,” said Huber.

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“And sometimes it’s better to be lucky than prepared,” said Johnston.

At the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside, the sales-tax holiday provided an opportunity to host a pop-up Pfizer vaccine clinic for shoppers who are at least 12 years old on Saturday and Sunday. The clinic is a partnership with the Holyoke Board of Health and Behavioral Health Network and is taking place in an empty retail space across from Billy Beez, an indoor play area.

Lisa Wray, the mall’s marketing director, said the city’s board of health thought the sales tax holiday would be a good time to offer a walk-in clinic. In May, the mall hosted a clinic offering the Moderna vaccine, she said.

“It’s a great time for people to do their back-to-school shopping and if they haven’t been vaccinated yet, now’s a great time to do that,” she said.

The clinic will offer the second vaccine dose on Sept. 5, according to the mall’s website.

The mall’s Best Buy store has extended hours this weekend, Wray said, as does Burlington, the clothing retailer. Although the sales tax holiday doesn’t apply to many Burlington products because most clothing isn’t taxable, Wray said the store is offering other deals for shoppers.

In Copley Square, the sales tax holiday offered opportunities for vendors at an open-air market.

Photographer Kam Boustani adjusted the price tags for his photographs by crossing out the words, “plus tax,” which were written in bold.

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Boustani, who also does business on the Internet marketplace Etsy, said the sales tax holiday offers a relief from the revenue slump he experienced last year.

“When everybody knows it’s tax-free weekend, it encourages people to come out and spend,” he said.


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi. Ivy Scott can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.