Marty Russell


Labor Day has come and gone meaning summer is officially over and, presumably, the white supremacist/nationalist movement will be taking a break until spring because everyone knows it’s tacky to wear white hoods after Labor Day.

The holiday weekend just passed also marked the last weekend this year when Mississippi consumers (i.e. all of us) can expect a tax break on purchases made in the state. Labor Day weekend marked the state’s annual two-day waiver of sales tax collections on guns and ammo meaning you could get that rifle, shotgun or pistol you’ve had your eye on about 7 percent cheaper than other days.

The Labor Day gun extravaganza comes on the heels of a one-day back-to-school sales tax holiday back in July just prior to the start of another school year. Let’s see, you have one day to get a break on supplies necessary to get an education and two days to get supplies to shoot something without paying a sales tax. Makes sense. At least for Mississippi.

Guns and schools, schools and guns. Those are the only options in the state for a brief sales tax break. Everything else we have to pay full price for. That means the state offers no breaks for those of us who don’t have kids in school or something that needs killing.

Makes sense. At least for Mississippi. The state levies about 50 different taxes, according to the state tax commission. Those taxes bring in about $6 billion a year to the state’s coffers. Name any consumer good or required license or service and you’ll likely pay a tax on it in this state except, of course, if you’re a church. And sales taxes make up the bulk – about 63 percent – of the state’s tax revenue.

Only five states nationwide levy no sales taxes on consumer purchases. Those are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon. But residents in those states generally pay higher taxes in other categories like income and property taxes.

But, just as Mississippi singles out things like school supplies and guns for a brief respite from sales taxes each year, some states have recognized the need to exempt other essentials (guns are essential, right?) to make life easier for their residents.

Only three states – Mississippi, Alabama and South Dakota – fully tax groceries. All the other states either exempt food purchases or tax them at a reduced rate. You could argue that food is essential to most of us, especially here in Mississippi which has one of the nation’s highest obesity rates. It’s also the state’s cash cow.

A one or even two-day holiday on sales taxes for groceries would serve no purpose. Most of us can’t even make up a list of groceries we need for a week, let alone a year. And groceries, unlike guns and an education, are perishable. And where would you store it all?

But abolishing the grocery tax would save Mississippians at least 7 percent of what they spend each year just to eat and stay healthy. You could buy a lot of guns and school supplies with that kind of money.

MARTY RUSSELL writes a Tuesday column for the Daily Journal. Readers can contact him at

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