Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Since when did Philly go "tax-free"?

We shop for more than clothes and shoes, y'know.

Since when did Philly go "tax-free"?


So I’m walking along the Boardwalk in Wildwood when I see this billboard, hanging above Lime Ricky, at Oak Ave.

It’s sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, which recently launched its fun “With Love, Philadelphia XOXO” marketing campaign to pull tourists into the city.
Cute ad, right? Except it had me wondering:

Since when does Philly have tax-free shopping?

I just paid a bunch of tax on the stove we bought to replace the busted, 30-year-old Hotpoint. Ditto on the supplies I purchased for my kid’s sleepaway camp. I forked over 7% tax on the Father’s Day cards I gave my dad and my husband. And – whoa – did we ever get tax-socked on our new car.

So I called GPTMC to ask: Am I missing something?

“Clothes and shoes aren’t taxed,” said spokesman Eric Cortes.

But clothes and shoes aren’t the only things that people, let alone tourists, “shop” for. They also shop for household goods, furniture, toiletries, prepared foods, souvenirs, tickets to sporting and cultural events, restaurant meals and on and on and on.

The place for real tax-free shopping, of course, is Delaware, which heavily promotes its tax-free status (even cars and cab rides are tariff-free).

So I contacted the state’s office of economic development to gauge reaction to the GPTMC’s “tax free” claim.

“I can understand where they’re coming from,” said Dina Reider-Hicks, the department’s director of marketing and development. “Most people think of clothes and shoes when they think of shopping. But it might be seen as a little misleading.”

Me, I think it’s disingenuous, at best, to imply that shoppers won’t be hit with Philly’s hefty 7% tax sales tax (plus, possibly, a temporary, extra penny-per-sales-transaction, if our mayor has his way)  when they open their wallets here.

Daily News Columnist
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About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.

Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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