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Marylanders can purchase most clothing tax-free this week.

An annual affair that began Aug. 10 this year and will last through Aug. 16., the state’s Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week means to stoke consumer spending during the summer months when businesses normally suffer a lull.

Most clothes priced at $100 or less will be exempt from the state’s 6-percent sales tax, including shirts, pants, dresses, shoes, socks and underwear, and pajamas. Accessories like jewelry, briefcases and purses are not included. Tax exemption is calculated by individual item, not the overall sale price. For example, two shirts at $75 each would both be tax-free.

Tax-free week comes just ahead of the new school year in St. Mary’s County. Classes begin in public schools on Wednesday, Aug. 20, where some 18,000 students are expected. Roughly another 2,000 will attend private and parochial schools.

The week provides a break for parents and a potential boost to businesses, said Robin Finnacom, acting director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic Development.

The week is “targeted to the back-to-school shopper,” she said.

It is “not only more economical for families, but it brings traffic to our local retail stores,” Finnacom said. “I think it’s a great benefit to our local retailers.”

After the week is over, the economic development agency is going to check with local businesses to see if revenues actually did increase during the week, and if so, by how much, she said.

“The idea behind it is give people a break,” said Ken Gould, president of the Business Alliance of Charles County. “But customers are also buying stuff that won’t qualify under the tax-free situation, so businesses will see even more income.” Back-to-school supplies — markers, folders, pencil totes — are taxable.

Cristina Montanez, director of marketing and business development at St. Charles Towne Center, said tax-free week is the second-busiest time of the year, aside from the Christmas holiday season.

The list of eligible items is very specific — protective athletic gear, like football pads, are not exempt, but a typical sports uniform is — though not sweatbands. Fishing vests make the grade, but not fishing boots or fishing waders.

The general rule of thumb is any specialty clothing or footwear, not designed for daily wear will be taxed as usual. The sales tax will also apply to services like alterations.

“Particularly in these tough economic times, Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week is a great opportunity for families to get a little help as they prepare to send their kids back to school, and it provides local businesses with an important boost when it’s certainly needed,” Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) wrote in an emailed statement.

jbauer-wolf@somdnews.com