ANNAPOLIS — Comptroller Peter Franchot wants to say thank you to Maryland consumers, and he hopes residents can enjoy the annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.

The tax-free week began Sunday, Aug. 11 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 17. During that time, any single qualifying article of clothing or footwear priced $100 or less — regardless of how many items are purchased at the same time — will be exempt from the state’s 6% sales tax. The first $40 of any backpack or book bag purchase also is tax-free.

“This is an effort by the state to say, ‘We appreciate all of our consumers and the strong economic bones that they give to the state of Maryland,’” Franchot said. “It is a potentially large savings because it is coupled with discounts from retail stores and clothing and shoe manufacturers. I champion it because I believe in it.

Franchot said Maryland has a consumer-based economy, with a lot of its prosperity coming from people recirculating what they earn. He said that, as the comptroller for the State of Maryland, he loves to see out-of-state license plates from Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., visiting here because they are attracted by the tax-free shopping.

The comptroller once again is joining with the Maryland Retailers Association to promote a social media contest in which two winners will receive $2,500 and $1,000 scholarships, respectively, to any Maryland university, college or trade school.

“Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week is a great opportunity for parents to get deals on back-to-school clothes and for anyone to refresh a tired wardrobe,” Franchot said. “And with the scholarship contest, two creative students have an opportunity to save on school costs simply by taking a fun photo or video while shopping, write a snappy caption and post it on the official social media pages.”

To enter the contest during Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, Maryland college and trade school students simply need to:

• Take a fun photo or video while shopping.

• Write a catchy caption. Be creative to catch the eye of the judges.

• Post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and use the hashtag #shopmdtaxfree.

Shoppers can like or follow the official social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information.

MRA, which is providing the scholarships, will select the two entries that best reflect the spirit of Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.

The University System of Maryland Foundation also has announced that it will match the $2,500 top prize provided by the MRA if the winner attends a member institution, meaning a total prize of $5,000 could be awaiting one Marylander.

“The University System of Maryland is pleased to support this year’s Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, which is an important and effective way that Maryland students and families can stretch their back-to-school dollars,” said Chancellor Robert L. Caret. “We also appreciate the Maryland Retailers Association leveraging this annual activity by sponsoring the #shopmdtaxfree scholarship contest.”

“Just when I thought tax-free week couldn’t get any better, one student could now be in line for a $5,000 scholarship,” Franchot said in a news release. “All they have to do is take a fun photo or video while shopping, write a creative caption and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #shopmdtaxfree. There’s no application, no interview, no essay — it doesn’t get any easier than that.”

In addition, USM institutions may individually choose to add on to this amount with their own matching scholarship, meaning the prize could go even higher. Salisbury University added $2,500 to the scholarship.

Franchot estimates he has made more than 8,000 visits to Maryland businesses in every part of the state during the past 10 years. Last week, he visited businesses in Chevy Chase, Bel Air and Baltimore. During tax-free week, he is scheduled to visit businesses in Elkton and Easton.

“I like to have a connection between the residents of the state,” Franchot said. “I find it inspiring because our communities are so helpful to other people. I enjoy recognizing and celebrating businesses because they present the best values to the state of Maryland.”

For more information on qualifying items, visit marylandtaxes.gov, email taxhelp@comp.state.md.us or call 1-800-MD-TAXES.

Follow Caroline/Dorchester Editor Dustin Holt on Twitter @Dustin_StarDem.

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