Proposal would eliminate New Jersey sales tax on masks purchased for general use

(The Center Square) – A New Jersey state lawmaker plans to introduce legislation eliminating taxes on masks the general public buys for non-medical use, saying people shouldn’t have to pay tax on an item they are required to wear.

In New Jersey, protective equipment is only exempt from the state’s 6.625 percent sales tax if purchased and worn for work. However, many items – such as disposable paper products for household use, most food sold as grocery items, most clothing and footwear and prescription and over-the-counter drugs – are exempt from sales tax.

Gov. Phil Murphy has issued executive orders mandating New Jerseyans to wear masks both indoors and outside if they cannot maintain a safe social distance.

“In the age of COVID, masks are now essential goods, not a luxury product. In typical New Jersey fashion, there’s a tax for this new necessity,” state Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Totowa, said in a news release. “My common-sense measure would exempt masks from this regressive tax that disproportionately impacts middle-class and low-income residents.”

“Our state does not tax clothing, disposable paper products, or medications,” Corrado said. “Given one cannot opt-out of purchasing masks due to Gov. Murphy’s mandate, non-medical grade masks should be added to this list. This is a fair and just change to implement, particularly during this pandemic.”

It was not immediately clear how much sales tax the Garden State collects from the sale of masks.

Earlier this month, the state Department of the Treasury reported that the sales and use tax increased $11 million in September, or 1.3 percent, to $848.4 million. However, the state is planning to borrow $4.5 billion to offset slumping tax revenues.

Christine Lee, Murphy’s deputy press secretary, declined to comment on the proposal, saying they don’t comment on pending legislation. On Monday, Murphy reiterated his call for New Jerseyans to wear masks, especially as there are more opportunities to gather this fall, whether around sports or the election.

“It’s not a normal year, period,” Murphy said during a press briefing. “We need folks to do the right thing. The down payment on hopefully getting back to something that is normal next year is to accept that it’s not normal this year and to limit, limit, limit. Limit whatever gathering you might want.”

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