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Daily Court Reporter - News Legislation would expand August sales tax holiday


Legislation would expand August sales tax holiday

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

Just as the current school year races to completion, lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives have taken up a measure intended to leave some money in the pockets of Ohio consumers when outfitting their kids for next school year.

Members of the Ways and Means Committee earlier this week entertained sponsor testimony of the bill which would raise the sales tax exemption on clothing, school supplies and instructional materials to $100.

Current law caps the exemption for clothing at $75 per item, school supplies at $20 per item and school instructional material at $20 per item.

Rep. Niraj Antani, a Miamisburg Republican, said the bill's intent is to particularly aid parents, students, and teachers as they prepare of a new school year.

"This bill ensures that all crucial school materials are exempt during this holiday," Antani told his peers seated on the committee. "For example, under the current exemptions virtually all graphing and scientific calculators are not included. These calculators almost always cost more than $20 and are the standard when a student enters high school.

"House Bill 135 would ensure that items, like these calculators, would be included in the holiday."

Another provision of the bill would incorporate a sales tax exemption for tablets and laptops valued up to $2,000.

The annual Sales Tax Holiday is the first Friday of August and runs through the weekend.

Ohio Council of Retail Merchants President and CEO Gordon Gough said raising the caps makes sense as consumer prices have increased since the state's first Sales Tax Holiday in 2015.

"Laptops and tablets have become a necessity for students at all grade levels," Gough said. "Families deserve the additional financial savings that (the) bill will provide."

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission's analysis of the bill found that Antani's tablet and laptop provision may run up against a federal rule.

The Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement was created by states as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting states from compelling mail-order retailers to collect and remit use tax, attorney Sam Benham wrote for the commission.

"The (agreement) sets specific guidelines and parameters for sales and use tax holidays that a member state, such as Ohio, may offer," Benham noted. "Specifically, a state is permitted only to exempt the purchase of certain types of items specifically defined in the (agreement) as part of a sales and use tax holiday.

"For example, current law's school supplies sales tax exemption applies to items specifically defined in the (agreement) – 'clothing,' 'school supplies' and 'school instructional materials,' each of which is further defined by an enumerated list of specific items."

Benham said it is unclear whether a tax holiday for the purchase of a laptop, netbook and tablet computer is within the agreement's parameters, as the terms are not defined in the agreement.

"The term 'computer' is defined in the (agreement), but the definition is general - 'any electronic device that accepts information in digital or similar form and manipulates it for a result based on a sequence of instructions' - and would presumably encompass devices such as cellphones that are explicitly excluded from the sales tax holiday under the bill," Benham concluded.

Antani said the program serves as a benefit to anyone who participates in the holiday.

"My job is to cut taxes for Ohio families," he said. "These bills will give all families in Ohio a tax cut on major purchases.

"The back-to-school tales tax holiday has been proven to be effective, and thus should be expanded to help families more, particularly with the inclusion of laptops, tablets, and graphing calculators."

Six fellow House members have offered cosponsor support to HB 135, which had not been scheduled a second hear at time of publication.

Date Published: May 24, 2019


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