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Would You Go Out to Eat on a Meals Tax Holiday?

Despite the setback last legislative session, a restaurant alliance will try again to get the holiday approved in Massachusetts.

 

Would you be more likely to go out to eat if the state suspended its meals tax? The Restaurant and Business Alliance thinks so, and is gearing up to try again to get it passed in the State House.

Unlike the sales tax holiday, which is offered one weekend out of most summers, the meals tax holiday would benefit workers in Massachusetts since the amount restaurant workers make is usually tied to how many customers come in, according to Vincent A.J. Errichetti, the alliance's spokesman. Both the sales tax and meals tax are 6.25 percent in Massachusetts in towns that have not adopted an additional .75 local option meals excise tax, where the meals tax is 7 percent.

"They understand that not only would it help waiters, waitresses and bartenders, but it would help an industry that is really hurting. And it would stay in the state," he said, contrasting it with the sales tax holiday, which he said increases sales for goods usually made out of state. 

However, not everyone in the State House thinks the meals tax holiday is a great idea. It got shot down last session in the House by a vote of 116-to-36, according to the Boston Globe. Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) called it  a "gimmick" and "bad public policy," adding that restaurants could use pricing specials or other promotions to encourage business, the Globe article states. 

Here in the South End, Jeffrey Gates, principal at the Aquitaine Group, said he would be in support of a meals tax holiday. 

"[Restaurants are] a retail purchase just like anything else," he said. "It's been painful that we haven't been part of a tax holiday, watching all these people go into stores and not seeing any of that benefit ourselves," he said.

"I don't think the consumer has healed from the economic damage of the last several years," Gates added. 

While Chelmsford opted to go with a local option meals excise in 2009, meals taxes are still lower than the 9 percent rate found nearby in New Hampshire.

Sue Carter September 18, 2012 at 05:02 PM
The change in the meals tax didn't really impact my dining out except that it made me more aware of patronizing Chelmsford businesses. The tax is still less than NH so my choice of restaurant was more based on convenience. There is no comparison to the sales tax holiday as MA is not in direct competition with abutting states. I periodically see specials for "restaurant week" so the marketing is already happening. I think having a meals tax holiday is an election year ploy and it will only hurt the state budget.
Vivian Merrill September 18, 2012 at 07:00 PM
The meals tax has not affected my choice of restaurants at all. The few occassions we go out are based on what we feel like eating, and how much time we have to get the meal done. It's been overall more cost effective to just eat at home.
Anna Bucciarelli September 19, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Not likely to make a difference for me and mine ... eating out is a treat, tax or no.

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