Mexican sales tax hike brings influx of shoppers to San Marcos outlet malls

News Reporter

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The San Marcos outlet malls are expected to see an increase of shoppers from Mexico due to a sales tax increase.

The San Marcos outlet malls may see a surge in shoppers from Mexico this year due to a hike in the Mexican sales tax that began Jan. 1.

Other stores, such as Target and Walmart, are expected to see an increase in purchases of necessity items such as cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoo and vitamins, according to Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez, executive director at San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau.

“(Mexican residents have done) more spending here than in the past, because they know that they will have to pay more when they go back to Mexico,” Ybarra-Ramirez said.

San Marcos collected about $1.7 million in sales tax in December 2012, Ybarra-Ramirez said. In 2013, 45 percent of total sales tax collected in San Marcos came from the Tanger Outlet Mall and the San Marcos Premium Outlet Mall, Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez said. Mexican residents are accountable for at least 30 percent of all sales at the outlet malls, she said.

Visitor Brenda Gonzalez traveled from Vera Cruz, Mexico with her family last week to shop at the outlet malls. She said she went to the Houston and McAllister outlets as well, but liked shopping at the San Marcos malls more.

“Before it was cheaper to shop at the border, but now it’s more expensive,” Brenda Gonzalez said.

Ernesto Gonzalez, Brenda’s father, said via a translation by his daughter that he plans to come back in the future to shop in San Marcos and explained the tax in Mexico increased to 16 percent.

Zaida Jasso, employee at 4N Tax Service at the San Marcos Premium Outlets, said she helps international shoppers get reimbursed for the sales tax paid at the time of their purchases. Only purchases from participating stores such as Best Buy, Kate Spade and Guess are available to receive the reimbursement, Jasso said.

“Since they’re international customers, they are not really obligated to pay taxes but it’s not by law that they don’t have to,” Jasso said. “Most of the companies that return taxes are not government owned, they are private owned.”

Shoppers are required to show their passport with the I94 stamp that shows they gained approval to enter the country and a B1B2 visitor visa in order to get reimbursed for the sales tax, Jasso said.
“So we do all the paperwork and we pay them the difference, which is 50 to 60 percent of their taxes back,” Jasso said.

During the holiday shopping season, some shoppers waited in a two-hour line to receive reimbursement, Jasso said. It takes about five minutes to an hour to complete everything depending on the number of receipts a shopper has, Jasso said.

Maria Falcon, employee at TaxFree Shopping at the Tanger Outlet, said the busiest time for shoppers to visit from Mexico is during the winter holidays, spring break and summer. About 90 percent of the customers who come to the tax center are from Mexico, she said.