Tax-free

Stores in the Fort Dodge area may be filled today with shoppers ready to expand their wardrobes without giving the state and local governments any more money.

An annual event that begins today and continues through Saturday will enable people to buy items of clothing that cost less than $100 without paying state or local sales taxes. Many stores offer additional markdowns to further encourage shoppers.

However, the full sales tax will remain in place for items of clothing that cost $100 or more.

The sales tax in Fort Dodge is 7 percent. It includes 5 percent for the state’s general fund, 1 percent for the statewide school infrastructure fund and 1 percent for the city.

The Iowa Sales Tax Holiday, as the state Department of Revenue calls the event, has its origins in Fort Dodge. Former state Rep. Mike Cormack, a Republican who represented Fort Dodge from 1995 to 2002, wrote the bill creating the tax break and successfully pushed for its passage.

The measure was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2000.

Rachel Cook, the store leader at JC Penney in the Crossroads Mall, said the sales tax break provides the second biggest boost in business her store experiences each year. Only Black Friday following Thanksgiving is a bigger event, she said.

“We definitely up our inventory stock levels and we move everything out of the storeroom and onto the floor for the customers,” Cook said.

John Junkman, president of Foley Clothing Co., 316 S. 25th St., said the store’s summer clearance sale will continue through the sales tax exemption period.

Junkman said the sale tax exemption does provide a boost to his business, although perhaps it’s not as big as it was during the first few years the tax break was offered.

“It’s not as crazy as Black Friday, but it does get pretty crazy,” said Tara Fortune, the assistant manager at Shoe Sensation in the Crossroads Mall.

She said she’s expecting to see a lot of people shopping today and Saturday.

According to Fortune, Shoe Sensation has been hiring seasonal help to work during the back-to-school shopping period. The store has also been stocking up on merchandise, she added.

“We’ve been getting freight in like crazy,” she said.

The Iowa Sales Tax Holiday is held on the first Friday and Saturday of August. Cormack picked those days as a way to help families shopping for back-to-school clothes.