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Kansas Lawmakers Debate Sales Tax Holiday for Back-to-school Shopping


By Rachel Mipro, Kansas Reflector


TOPEKA, Kan. — Three bills that would help Kansas parents trying to save money on school supplies were received favorably by legislators on Thursday.

During a Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation meeting, Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, committee chair, said she was optimistic about passing some form of legislation to help out Kansans buying for school in August.

Tyson said states that had some form of sales tax holidays, such as Missouri and Oklahoma, were taking dollars from Kansas parents who needed supplies. She said some of the original opposition to this sort of sales tax holiday in 2011, when it was first discussed, came from lawmakers who didn’t believe people would go to a different state to save money.

“There were two senators from Johnson County, representatives at the time, that said they didn’t know anybody that would cross the state line to save a few cents. I said, ‘You’re not going over and looking at the license plates then,’” Tyson said.

SB 21, SB 55 and SB 29 would all create a sales tax holiday for certain school supplies. SB 21, introduced by the Committee on Assessment and Taxation, would go into effect after July 1, 2024. Under the bill, school supplies, educational materials or art supplies under $100 would be exempt from sales tax for a small period of time, in effect from the first Friday in August to midnight on the following Saturday.

SB 55, also introduced by the committee, offers a longer grace period. That bill, which would go in effect on or after July 1, 2023, would make all school supply purchases exempt from the sales tax from the first Thursday in August to midnight on the following Sunday. Exempt items would include clothing, accessories and equipment priced at or lower than $300. School supplies, educational materials and art supplies priced at or under $100 would also be exempt, as well as computers and computer supplies.

Under the legislation, computer software would be exempt if sold for $300 or less, and computers and computer supplies would be exempt if priced at or below $2,000.

SB 29, introduced by Sens. Virgil Peck, Elaine Bowers, J.R. Claeys, John Doll, Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Mike Petersen, would also provide a sales tax exemption for school supplies, personal computers and clothing during an annual sales tax holiday.

The bill would go into effect July 1, 2023 and last from the first Thursday in August to midnight on the following Sunday.

Those at the meeting spoke in support of some form of sales tax holiday. Spencer Duncan, representing the League of Kansas Municipalities, said the organization felt the exemption would be for the greater good.

“It will certainly serve thousands of families and teachers who oftentimes have to buy supplies for their own classroom,” Duncan said. “We also recognize that we have other states surrounding us that are already doing this, and we have people jumping the border to take care of advantage of those sales tax holidays in those states, so we have cities losing that business also.”

Spencer said the league would want limitations, such as keeping the pricing and time of the holiday under a certain amount, but it felt something should be passed.

Stacey Knoell, executive director of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, said she would support any form of sales tax holiday, saying her experience as a parent and teacher showed the necessity of financial relief for Kansas families.

“I can say that this type of tax holiday really is the right thing to do,” Knoell said. “A lot of times we make arguments based on the fact of the economic stability or what it is going to do for the economy, but just think about people who actually have to go out and buy clothes and pencils and tennis shoes.”