Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Louisiana Is Prepared to Offer Foreigners Tax-Free Shopping

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Louisiana Is Prepared to Offer Foreigners Tax-Free Shopping

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Louisiana will offer tax-free shopping to foreign visitors under a bill approved by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Buddy Roemer. He is expected to sign the bill, to be effective Jan. 1.

The legislation would allow foreign purchasers of jewelry, clothing and other items to receive cash rebates of the 4 percent state sales tax and local sales taxes as well. Advocates say tax rebates would help generate sales by luring more visitors from abroad.

The tax-free shopping blends with efforts to attract more Latin Americans to the shopping and medical centers of Jefferson Parish, which adjoins New Orleans, said Michael Daigle, executive director of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission.

He said: ``This area used to be referred to in the late 1950's as the `Gateway to the Americas.' We allowed Miami to take that away from us primarily because of complacency. Now we're kind of trying to re-establish ourselves.''

The bill does not apply to taxes on meals or hotel rooms. It establishes tax-free shopping for three years. More legislation will be needed to continue it after that.

Under the plan, foreign shoppers would receive certificates at participating stores that they could redeem for cash at airports or ports as they leave the state.

``Who doesn't like value?'' said Eugene Shreiber, managing director of the World Trade Center in New Orleans. ``We've got so many attractions - jazz, riverboats, food, plantations. This is one more.''

Tourism is already an important industry here. According to a study by the World Trade Center in New Orleans, which promoted the bill, Louisiana ranked 15th among the states in 1986 in attracting foreign visitors, not counting those from Canada and Mexico. With Louisiana's double-digit unemployment amid the continuing slump in the oil industry, some economic leaders here say even more tourism could help restore prosperity to the state.

``Tax-free shopping is not a novel idea in the world tourist market,'' said Lt. Gov. Paul Hardy, noting that 17 European countries offer it.

``However, it will be unique as far as the United States is concerned,'' he continued. …

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