By STACEY PLAISANCE, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 1 minute ago
NEW ORLEANS - The state of Louisiana will waive its sales tax for holiday shoppers this weekend, trying to lift an economy battered by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The state will suspend its 4 percent tax for three days starting Friday, the first time Louisiana has done so and the first time any state has made such a move during the month of December.
The promotion, approved during a special legislative session last month, applies to items that cost less than $2,500 and could prompt a rush for household goods such as refrigerators and furniture as people restock storm-damaged homes. Many stores are extending hours this weekend, anticipating the demand.
The legislation passed last month estimates the state will forfeit $10.2 million in taxes. But supporters say many purchases will likely be a direct result of the tax break, stimulating business.
Residents are still expected to pay local sales taxes, with many parishes levying as much as another 5 or 6 percent. But many retailers have said they're going to absorb those taxes to avoid confusion. Some are touting that extra incentive in advertisements.
Doerr Furniture in New Orleans, which usually closes on Sunday, will be open this Sunday to accommodate shoppers who've been "looking and calling, saying they're waiting until this weekend to buy," store manager David Mutter said.
Hurwitz-Mintz Furniture Co. in Metairie printed fliers to hand out to customers about the rules and will have signs posted around the store, said Linda Banes, the store's merchandise manager.
With Christmas only a week away, electronics stores also are anticipating crowds. And because the tax break can be used for building materials, it's expected to be a plus for families rebuilding their homes — and the stores that sell those supplies.
Still, some retailers have questioned the timing of the promotion. Tax-free shopping promotions in other states are usually held in July and August to coincide with back-to-school buys rather than December, when sales are up.
"No other state has done this in December, so we don't really know what to expect," said Jessica Elliott, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Retailers Association. "Most of our businesses are excited, no matter when it happens."
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