Tax-free school supply shopping a possibility for Hawaii

Local News

Back-to-school shopping means big spending for many hawaii parents — especially in families with multiple children.

Some state lawmakers want to make that time of year a little less painful on the wallet. 

One of two education-related tax holiday bills being considered by lawmakers is moving forward.

Representative Gene Ward says the senate bill is a good start — but doesn’t go quite far enough.

“I think it’s creative, I think it’s innovative, it’s about time we do something like that, but I think it’s a nickel-and-dime proposition. It’s four-and-a-half, or four-and-a-half-percent off of things, pencils, papers, erasers. I would like to see something more robust. How ’bout a computer, how ’bout a jacket, how ’bout clothing for the kids, shoes for the kids?”

School supply lists can contain dozens of items children are expected to bring to school, including dishpans and paper towels. Those items are not part of the tax holiday bill. Neither are clothing or shoes.

A House bill calling for a similar tax holiday would have allowed back-to-school shoppers to buy clothing, shoes and school supplies tax-free, but it hasn’t seemed to go anywhere. 

Still, tax-free is tax-free and shoppers are all for it.

Shopper Dale Shishido, of Kaimuki, says back-to-school shoppers deserve a break.

“They should be able to purchase school supplies tax free for education purposes, definitely agree.”

Former Department of Education employee Jo Ann Takahashi also thinks it will be helpful.

“Oh it would be wonderful. We really need it, especially the families and teachers who do buy supplies for their students who don’t come to school with enough supplies. It would be wonderful.”

Ward is in favor of this proposal and hopes it is the start of something bigger, like taking the general excise tax off food and automobiles. 

“Half of our budget comes from GET tax and in a way it’s kind of a sacred cow and no one likes to touch it so, that’s why they’re touching it very gingerly. Only four-and-a-half cents for one day — well, it’s Friday afternoon to a Sunday .. so two-and-a-half days.. maybe the State at the most is gonna get a couple thousand dollars hit on the GET tax.”

The bill is up for a vote on Tuesday.

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