MAYVILLE - County lawmakers are taking input from retailers who sell clothing, tallying up how the business owners feel about a possible tax change.
At present, all clothing and shoe purchases made in Chautauqua County are taxed by the state. The county, however, continues to exempt the sales tax on such purchases - as long as the purchases total less than $110.
The state similarly used to exempt such purchases, but recently reinstated the tax - shelving the exemption for the time being.
Now county legislators have to choose between continuing the full exemption of such purchases or bringing the local exemption in line with the state's, which would save some headache for retailers.
The issue was debated during the December meeting of the County Legislature and was subsequently tabled. It will be discussed again later this month, during both committee meetings and the body's full session at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26.
"I've been making some phone calls and talking to different retailers, coming up with a list of who is in favor and who isn't in favor," said Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, on Monday.
"Several others of our caucus are doing the same, so that when we come together prior to the next meeting, we'll form a position dependent upon what we find out in our research," Barmore continued.
The debate last month was over which decision would be most beneficial for local business owners - keeping the larger exemption or simplifying the process. It was also over whether or not to table the decision for a month in order to gather more information.
For the most part, Republicans spoke in favor of mirroring the state's changes while Democrats argued against it - calling for a continuation of the county's full exemption.
Democrats framed the discussion as Republicans wanting to increases taxes on the shoppers of Chautauqua County. Barmore said Monday that that's not the case at all.
"We're interested in doing what's going to be most convenient for merchants and the public alike," Barmore said. "Prior to the last meeting, the only people that I had heard from had come to me saying that they thought all these different tax rates were a pain in the neck and they wanted to have them all alike. Since then, I've talked to others that feel differently and I've talked to others that feel the same."
Barmore reiterated that the Republican caucus will review all information gathered by its member legislators before moving forward with a decision on the issue.
The state started taxing all clothing purchases again on Oct. 1. The return is only temporary though, as the state plans to stagger its exemption back in beginning April 1.
As of April 1, the state will institute a partial exemption - meaning the 4 percent sales tax won't be charged on purchases which total less than $55. The county can either maintain its current exemption at the $110 amount or join the state at the $55 level. If lawmakers choose to do the latter, the county will begin taxing purchases which total between $55 and $110 dollar amounts. Currently there is no tax on such clothing and shoe purchases.
All clothing and shoe purchases over $110 are currently taxed by both the state (at 4 percent) and the county (at 3.5 percent), totaling the full tax rate of 7.5 percent. Anything below $110 is currently only taxed by the state.
Two business owners recently weighed in on the issue in an article published last month by The Post-Journal. A link to that article can be found online with this story. Others feeling wishing to share their opinion on the topic are welcome to call 487-1111, ext. 251, in addition to county lawmakers.