Sales tax will take a weekend off

By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / July 26, 2011

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Attention shoppers: State lawmakers are getting ready to bestow their annual back-to-school gift, a sales tax holiday in the middle of August.

House and Senate leaders say they expect to approve a measure this week - passed in a committee yesterday - to suspend the 6.25 percent sales tax on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14, a weekend. Governor Deval Patrick said he will sign it.

Shoppers and retailers have come to expect the break, doled out six of the last seven years. There was some early doubt that the state could afford it this year, given a budget crunch that required cuts to social services, including a clothing allowance for poor children that was slashed from $150 to $40.

But recent tax collections have shot up, meaning the state will probably have more money by year’s end than initially projected. And retailers say the 6.25-percent-off sale amounts to a mini-stimulus for an economy that has yet to fully rebound.

“We do it frankly, not because it’s particularly fiscally prudent but because it’s popular,’’ Patrick said yesterday. “It costs the state about $20 or $25 million. But as revenues come back, people want it. We think we can swing it.’’

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said he hopes that as people shop, they go out to restaurants and other attractions, spreading the economic benefit.

“It’s a great opportunity for the retailers,’’ he said. “It’s a way of, I guess, thanking them for their hard work throughout the year.’’

Noah Bierman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@noahbierman.