Dylan joined ITEP in 2016. Prior to joining ITEP, he worked as a Fiscal Policy Analyst at OpenSky Policy Institute, which provides research, analysis, education, and leadership around budget and tax policy debates in the state of Nebraska. Before OpenSky, he worked as a Research Associate at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., focusing on a range of state fiscal policy issues. He holds a BA in Political Science from Arizona State University and an MA in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. He lives and works in lovely Lincoln, Neb.dylan at itep.org
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It’s back-to-school shopping season, so…everyone who buys a cell phone in Arkansas this weekend will do so sales-tax-free. For this whole week in Connecticut, and for the entire spring in New Mexico, the corporate owners of highly profitable multinational restaurant chains had the option to pocket their customers’ taxes rather than remit them to the state to fund vital public services, pass along those savings to their customers, or give a much-needed boost to their employees. And all told, about $550 million of state and local revenue will be forgone in 17 states this year through wasteful and poorly targeted sales tax holidays.
Policymakers tout sales tax holidays as a way for families to save money while shopping for “essential” goods. On the surface, this sounds good. However, a two- to three-day sales tax holiday for selected items does nothing to reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income taxpayers during the other 362 days of the year. Sales taxes are inherently regressive. In the long run, sales tax holidays leave a regressive tax system unchanged, and the benefits of these holidays for working families are minimal. Sales tax holidays also fall short because they are poorly targeted, cost revenue, can easily be exploited, and create administrative difficulties.