August 3, 2021
Thirteen-year-old Jacob Bragg of Kermit looks through clothing at JCPenney during the final day of West Virginia’s back-to-school sales tax holiday Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville.
Families shop during the final day of West Virginia’s back-to-school sales tax holiday Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville.
Photos by Sholten Singer | The Herald-Dispatch
West Virginians took advantage of the state’s sales tax holiday, which started Friday and ended Monday.
Brian Reed, general manager of JCPenney at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville, said the sales tax holiday offered a good opportunity for people to support local businesses that are still recovering from the COVID-19 downturn.
“We had a great customer turnout for it and were extremely busy,” Reed said. “Most of the increase in shopping came from purchases of basic back-to-school items, like bookbags, children’s clothing and children’s shoes.”
For the first time since 2004, certain items were exempt from the state sales tax over the four-day period. It included school-related items such clothing, supplies, instructional materials, laptops and tablets, and sports equipment. Qualifying items could be bought tax-free at stores, online or by telephone, mail or custom order.
“I knew Monday was the last day, so I made my list and headed to the Huntington Mall,” said Melissa Wright of Huntington, mother of two elementary school children, while shopping at the mall on Monday. “I am looking for new school clothes, shoes and school supplies.”
The average customer was estimated to save at least 6% on every qualified purchase, and up to 7% if the item was bought in a municipality with a local sales tax, according to a news release from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s office.
“It’s really helpful to my family budget,” Wright said.
Jordan Damron of the governor’s office said the West Virginia Legislature updated W.Va. Code 11-15-9 in the 2020 session to provide for this to be an annual sales tax holiday.
“Occurring from Friday through Monday, coinciding with the first Sunday in August,” he said.
Reed said he is glad the sales tax holiday is back.
“It really had a large impact this year,” he said.
West Virginia’s National Federation of Independent Business Director Gil White said the state’s sales tax holiday is a significant event for small businesses throughout the state.
“Our economy may be a lot healthier than it was last summer, but business still isn’t what it was before the pandemic started,” White said. “By shopping small, independent businesses this weekend, people can help local merchants get back on their feet.”
Last week in Boston, Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker proposed expanding the state’s annual two-day sales tax holiday to a two-month event this year in an effort to supercharge the post-pandemic economy, according to a recent report by the Associated Press. The state can afford a 60-day period free of most sales taxes, thanks to tax revenues that are almost 15% above projections as well as an infusion of federal coronavirus relief funds, Baker said.
White said he would “at face value” support a similar proposal in West Virginia.
“We would have to look at the proposal and make sure it achieves all of the goals for the state and businesses,” he said.
Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bill Bissett said this year’s sales tax holiday was a success.
“From increased foot traffic to sales, all reports were positive, which is a good indication that our economy is on the rebound from COVID-19, at least in the retail sector,” Bissett said.
As for the governor of Massachusetts’ plan to extend the holiday by two months, Bissett said it sounds like a good thing.
“Any way to increase retail sales would be a good thing, especially as many retail business are still feeling the negative effects of the pandemic shutdown and understandably cautious consumer spending during that same period,” he said. “At some point, I think we have to consider the impact on state revenues, which seem stronger than anticipated, but I also am concerned that if you were poor before COVID-19, you’re likely more poor now, which would make this kind of savings more imperative for those in need and on tight budgets.”