RI pet groomers are barking mad over new tax

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Pet groomers and trainers in Rhode Island asked state officials Thursday to delay a new tax on their services while they try to persuade lawmakers to repeal it.

The General Assembly voted in June to impose the state's 7 percent sales tax on pet grooming, boarding and other services to raise $1.3 million a year. The new tax is set to go into effect Oct. 1. It does not apply to veterinary services.

Warwick dog trainer Bob Midwood said the tax will hurt business and could cause some dog and cat owners to stop using his services. He wants the state to repeal the tax, or at least delay its implementation until lawmakers convene in January.

"They couldn't care less about what they're doing to small businesses," Midwood said following a public hearing Thursday called by the Department of Revenue to discuss the new taxes.

Several groomers called on the state to delay the implementation of the tax, but state revenue officials told them that there was little they could do since the tax proposal was passed into law by the General Assembly.

Before they adjourned this summer, lawmakers also voted to impose sales taxes on taxi fares and items of clothing costing $250 or more. At the time, top lawmakers said they'd be open to repealing the tax next year if state revenues pick up.

Lawmakers did something similar with a tax on sightseeing tours. That tax was passed last year and repealed only a few months later after tour operators said it was hurting business.

Rep. Rene Menard, a Lincoln Democrat who voted against the new taxes, said he wants to repeal them as soon as possible. He said new taxes on pet services, taxi fares and pricey clothing will raise only about $12 million — a fraction of the state's $8.1 billion budget — and not enough to justify the burden on business owners.

"It's idiotic," he said. "With the economy the way it is this is the last thing we should be doing."

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