Editorial: Keep tax on clothing sales

Sunday, April 3, 2011
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The state has a balanced budget, but a good deal of the pain from the $9 billion worth of cuts that were made has yet to be felt. When it is — when those tens of thousands of teachers and state workers start getting laid off, etc. — we wonder how New Yorkers will feel about the restoration of the state’s 4 percent sales tax exemption on clothing purchases, which occurred April 1, but only on purchases under $55.

New York legislators have monkeyed around with this puny tax exemption so many times that most consumers have lost track of where it stands. What began years ago as a pair of week-long sales tax holidays — one before the start of the school year, the other before Easter — morphed into a full-time tax break that was given and taken away at least a couple of times, depending on the state’s economy and the mood of the Legislature. Counties had a choice whether to join in with their own exemptions — some did, others didn’t — but keeping track of what was what hasn’t been easy for consumers, to say nothing of merchants.

And what amounts to savings of only a dollar or two each time at the cash register becomes big bucks for the state — more than $600 million a year. Like the money that was generated by the so-called millionaire’s tax, that’s revenue a state with serious cash-flow problems can ill afford to sacrifice. And yet, when the Legislature rescinded the exemption last fall in an effort to patch a budget hole, it made the move only temporary — restoring the break halfway this April 1 (making purchases under $55 eligible), then all the way in October (exempting the full $110).

So the state will lose upwards of $300 million between now and October — more than enough to save the 10,000 state jobs that Cuomo has suggested may be cut; and $600 million annually thereafter. All so people can save a few dollars when they go back-to-school shopping.

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April 3, 2011
11:02 a.m.
fjcjr says...

The editors' argument is only valid to the extent that people have no choice but to pay the state. This is true for clothes - when given an option, they will go to neighboring states to make purchases, and in the case of the milionaires tax, wealthier people will leave the state (they have). Think about it, when was the last time you heard someone say "I'm going to retire in a couple of years...I think I'll move to NY"? Heaping a greater tax burden on people with choices simply won't work! If this is to be the policy, NY State should have a going out business sale.

April 3, 2011
4:14 p.m.
myshortpencil says...

That's right. Take a dollar from the poor to give to highly compensated government employees. Where's the sense of balance in that? What's the fairness of keeping people in overpaid jobs? The unions, themselves, admit their members are paid 20% more than they would be in non-unionized private sector jobs. Taking a dollar more from anyone to sustain the imbalance is just robbery by political coercion. Are the editors related to the Sheriff of Nottingham?

April 4, 2011
12:15 p.m.
robbump says...

I suggest they continue to NOT tax clothing MADE IN NEW YORK. (With gas prices what they are today, I'm not going to drive to MA or VT to save 4% of my clothing purchases.)

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