Even though they are bad for state budgets and aren't necessarily good bargains, Americans love sales-tax holidays. Retailers like them too, because the tax holidays motivate consumers.
“It can be a pretty significant increase in traffic in the store and sales,” says Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for Macy’s.
So why are tax holidays so popular?
“There’s absolutely a psychological impact here that is bigger than the money,” says Craig Shearman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation.
He says consumers generally hold out for sales offering at least 25 percent off.
“If retailers were to offer 5 or 10 percent off, consumers would laugh at them,” says Shearman. “But when shoppers can save that same 5 or 10 percent by virtue of not paying tax, it goes way beyond the amount of money involved.”
While consumers save money at the cash register, it’s really the states that pay.
“The first time I heard about a state tax holiday, I laughed until I cried,” says Verenda Smith, deputy director at the Federation for Tax Administrators, an association of state tax agencies.
There are 27 tax holidays this year.
“They’re expensive. They tend to distort the economy a little bit. But people love ‘em,” says Smith.
If tax holidays disappeared, would retailers lose much business?
Joy Hyrons, who handles accounting for Miller’s School Supplies in central Florida, says not necessarily.
“Well, to be honest with you, it probably wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference because the people have to purchase these items anyway,” says Hyrons.
A geographical analysis of comments to the Federal Communications Commission shows wide disparities on the issue of an open Internet.
Chefs and gardeners have long used edible blossoms as a garnish for salads and entrees. Now, food entrepreneurs are giving them a big role in mixed drinks and chocolate.
Ronald Hampton — a black former police officer in Washington, D.C. — analyzes the recent spate of violent police encounters in the context of his experiences on the street.
A bigger and bigger chunk of the money hospitals get comes from you and me, thanks to a rise in what are known as high deductible health plans, in which consumers are spending more out-of-pocket for their own care.
With millions more people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act holding those plans, hospitals are thinking hard about the best way to collect from us when we can't pay our bills. In some cases, that means no-interest payment plans.
Craig Froude, CEO of CarePayment, says business is booming for his company, which works for hospitals offering patients no-interest payment plans.
“We will actually double in revenue in this year,” he says, “and we will probably double again in 2015.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports the number of workers with deductibles has jumped from 55 percent to 78 percent since 2006.
Froude says that's why hospitals are lining up outside his door.
“And so what we are really seeing patients are having to figure out how they are going to afford healthcare,” he says.
Hospitals do a good job getting money from insurers, but when it comes to what individuals owe, Fraude says it's just about 17 cents on the dollar. And that won't cut it as collections become a bigger part of the business.
“We're trying to get ahead of this curve because we want to be able to continue being financially viable,” says Melanie Wilson of North Carolina-based Novant Health.
Two years ago, Novant stopped offering a payment plan with a 12 percent interest rate and introduced a no-interest option. Wilson says collections bumped up 6 percent.
“They see that we are not here to just make money,” she says. “We're here to do the right thing.”
Not all hospitals can go that route. Sandra Wolfskill with the non-profit Healthcare Financial Management Association expects some hospitals to keep using loans or credit cards with interest because those lenders give hospitals money up front.
"I think the hospitals that are financially stressed may be more inclined to go with the credit card option because it moves their cash flow much quicker,” Wolfskill says.
Patients often don't know what they owe until the bill shows up, she says, adding that hospitals need to find a way to make that stop.
Congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman gives his take on the 113th Congress, including how House Speaker John Boehner has little sway, and business in the Senate has virtually ground to a halt.
The ruling came from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, which had taken up the case after a district court struck down Virginia's ban in February.