Did you realize that a holiday is approaching in August? It’s called the “Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday,” and it takes place from August 5 to August 7. Well, it does for some communities, at least. Many other cities, counties and special taxing districts have decided to “opt out.” In other words, they’re raising your taxes for that weekend.

The state instituted a sales tax holiday for “back-to-school” purchases in 2003. Here’s the description from the Department of Revenue:

Section 144.049, RSMo, establishes a sales tax holiday during a three-day period beginning at 12:01 a.m. on the first Friday in August and ending at midnight on the Sunday following. Certain back-to-school purchases, such as clothing, school supplies, computers and other items as defined by the statute, are exempt from sales tax for this time period only.

I was the Missouri House Budget Chairman when this bill, sponsored by then Senate Pro Tem Peter Kinder, came to the House. Local governments were very interested in removing the provision that required them to “opt out” of the sales tax holiday. I made it pretty clear that I would oppose the sales tax holiday if the local governments didn’t have to do a thing in order to not participate. My belief was then, as it is now, that local governments should have to go on-record with their opposition to decreasing taxes.

Surely, you can understand the reasoning of local government officials. Why, if they had to “opt out,” they would have to take an action that would actually result in a higher tax rate for that period. They would much rather do nothing and have the tax increase automatically go into effect, rather than put their fingerprints all over it.

The bill passed with the “opt out” provision. Why was that necessary? There is a valid argument that the Hancock amendment would have kicked in and required the state to reimburse the “losses” that local governments sustained as a result of the sales tax holiday. This would have made it easy for the local governments, because they would be spending other people’s money (a task at which they’re already quite skilled). By providing the “opt out” provision, the responsibility for lowering taxes back went back where it belongs: on the shoulders of local governments.

Many communities have a “Shop at Home” campaign. But if your local government is making you spend more money for the privilege of shopping at home, then you should consider shopping elsewhere for that weekend.  If that happens, perhaps the businesses in the areas that “opt out” will take a more proactive role in encouraging the local government entity not to raise taxes next year!

Click the links for for the list of cities, counties and special districts that have chosen to raise your taxes for the weekend of August 5 through 7.  If your city, county or special tax district is listed, give your elected officials a call and ask them why they chose to raise your taxes.  After all – you are paying for it!