Because the pandemic decimated small businesses across the country, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot hopes this year’s tax-free week will boost recovery for surviving businesses. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

Maryland’s annual tax-free week is upon us, and this year it’s more important now than ever to buy from small businesses. The arrival of COVID-19 forced numerous small businesses to close their doors, and Black and Brown business owners were disproportionately affected. Many are still in the process of recovering, and tax-free week gives Marylanders the opportunity to pour money into these businesses.

“The remaining small businesses need to have citizen support,” said Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot. “This tax-free shopping week is a shot in the arm for them, and it benefits all of our small businesses, even ones that are not selling clothing or shoe ware, because people are out shopping and spending money.”

During the week, the 6% sales tax will be forgiven for qualifying clothing and footwear items that cost $100 or less, and there is no limit to the number of items that can be exempt from the tax in the same transaction. If you purchase a backpack, the first $40 is also exempt from sales tax. This year, tax-free week will run from Aug. 8 to Aug. 14.

“It’s a small, much-appreciated tax break for Maryland consumers,” said Franchot. “Often, the 6% sales tax is greeted with other discounts from manufacturers and also some small businesses so you can end up with far more than just a 6% savings.”

The Maryland Retailers Association will also hold a contest during tax-free week to provide two students attending a Maryland university, college or trade school with a $1,000 and $500 scholarship. The University System of Maryland has agreed to match the scholarship if the winning students attend one of its institutions.

To participate in the competition, students must send in a creative video under 60 seconds displaying how they supported Maryland retailers during tax-free week. The winners will be chosen on Aug. 15.

As a result of the pandemic, most Maryland businesses have pivoted to incorporate e-commerce operations so shoppers have the option of buying virtually and remotely to take advantage of the tax break.

In particular, Franchot said that small businesses owned by African Americans and women have been damaged far more than their counterparts so he encourages shoppers to support them during the week.

“I would ask Marylanders to patronize the small, local businesses because they’re just coming out ,” said Franchot. “They’ve survived so far, but it’s not certain that they can survive until the end of the year without increased shopping.”

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