Celebrate the tax holiday by shopping locally


This weekend is the perfect opportunity to take that trip youve been planning. No, not the jaunt to the Islands that youve been dreaming of, but the journey to Robcyns or Macys that youve been putting off.  Friday through Sunday marks Virginias annual Sales Tax Holiday for clothing and school supplies. If youre in town and organized, take advantage.

The list of tax-free items is extensive. It ranges from the expected school supplies like calculators, binders, pencils and lunch boxes to clothing items. Interestingly, the clothing items that are exempt range far beyond buying sneakers for Johnny or a school uniform for Suzie. Houses of worship can purchase their choir uniforms, altar clothing and clerical vestments this weekend tax free. Likewise, you can buy formal wear, including garters, for that upcoming wedding (provided they cost less than $100 per item). 

The list contains enough quirky, non-school items (girdles and lingerie are on the list) to make one wonder about the back-room negotiating that must have taken place during its compilation. Construction workers are well represented (hard hats, steel-toed shoes and safety belts) as are medical workers (lab coats). Sports enthusiasts can purchase items not usually seen on back-to-school lists, like wetsuits, ski boots and waders. Theres truly something for everyone on the official tax holiday list. (You can look it up by visiting www.tax.virginia.gov and clicking on the Virginia Sales Tax Holiday link.)

A one-weekend tax holiday raises questions about our tax policies in general: Why isnt clothing, a basic necessity, tax-free all of the time? Or, if the federal government really wanted to stimulate the economy and create jobs, why didnt it cut taxes, which would have put more disposable income in the hands of consumers and created jobs? While those are valid questions, theyre largely beside the point, as this is a weekend for shopping, not policy formulation. 

A reprieve from part of our tax burden, even if temporary, is welcome to both shoppers and merchants alike. Summer is often a slow time for storeowners, so the tax holiday comes at a convenient time not only for parents and other consumers, but for retailers, too. As Alexandrians go to stores to take advantage of the tax holiday, it would boost our local merchants if they would turn to our city shops first, instead of immediately heading for the big boxes.

So, whether you approach shopping as entertainment or something akin to torture, there will be no better time than the present to take a motor trip to Bradlee or Foxchase or Alexandria Commons or Belle View shopping centers and spend during your tax holiday.