We retired Tax Justice Blog in April 2017. For new content on issues related to tax justice, go to www.justtaxesblog.org
Over Labor Day weekend Louisiana shoppers purchasing items like firearms, ammunition, hunting supplies, holsters, certain knives and archery items didn’t pay any sales tax. Shoppers participating in the “Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday” should be aware that holidays like this one don’t make their state’s tax structure any fairer and they cost Louisiana money.
Governor Jindal is a big proponent of the holiday, saying, “This is a great opportunity for all hunters and campers to save money on the equipment they need to enjoy Sportsman’s Paradise. The weekend-long event will also bring more customers to our local hunting and sporting stores which will further benefit our businesses and Louisiana’s economy.”
Second Amendment politics aside, sales tax holidays are ridiculous tax policy. Holidays like this one and those offered during back-to-school time are not at all targeted, and targeting is the key to smart policy. They do nothing to meaningfully help low and middle-income families struggling to make ends meet because they can’t just shop when the state says so. Only wealthier consumers can postpone or move up their shopping to take advantage of these holidays. What’s more, the more well-off will likely make their purchase regardless of a tax holiday; saving four percent on the price probably does not change their consumer behavior.
Sales tax holidays falsely lull legislators into thinking they are helping families in a real way, and make too many families think the state is doing them a favor. Sportsman’s Paradise or not, Louisiana policymakers should implement smart tax policies that offer more than just window dressing. The Pelican State can start by ending the deduction it gives for every federal income tax dollar its citizens pay: the richer you are the more you benefit and it’s costing the state about $643 million this fiscal year. With those revenues, lawmakers could target some tax credits in the direction of low- and middle- income Louisianans who pay a larger portion of their incomes (10% on average) than their rich counterparts in state taxes under the current structure.