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BIG SPENDERS SHOP TO AVOID TAXES LIQUOR AND LUXURY CARS GOING FAST AS JAN. 1 NEARS

If you're contemplating spending $90,000 for that top-of-the-line Mercedes, you'd better move before Tuesday to avoid about $7,000 in new federal taxes.

Or if a $10,000 fur coat is in your 1991 plans, you might think about buying it before midnight Monday to avoid another $1,000 in new taxes.

Neither one applies to you? Then how about this: One of those 4-liter jugs of wine will cost you at least another buck and maybe more beginning Tuesday.

It's all part of a slew of new taxes taking effect Jan. 1 that will help close the federal deficit while opening your wallet -- whether you're buying big-time automobiles or a six-pack of beer.

"The federal government is really socking it to the public," said Vincent Albatessa, manager of Great Arrow Liquors on Delaware Avenue. "This is a big increase. And the average guy is going to complain about it."

On Jan. 1, federal taxes on beer will double to 32 cents a six pack. Add another 20 cents for every fifth of 100-proof alcohol, and another 90 cents to a gallon of table wine.

Another change for the average consumer includes a rise from 16 to 20 cents in tax on every pack of cigarettes.

And for the not-so-average consumer, consider these changes: A
new 10 percent tax will apply to that portion of the price above $30,000 for cars, $100,000 for boats, $250,000 for aircraft and $10,000 for furs and jewelry.

In addition, a new tax has been imposed on "gas guzzlers."

All this has translated into a hefty hike in activity around Western New York for many liquor stores, furriers and luxury automobile dealers as spenders look to cash in on the last days of low taxes. For most people, that means stocking up on liquor.

At stores where customers buy one bottle at a time, business is at the usual busy level of the holiday season. But at the high volume stores, it is a different story. The manager at Gates Circle Discount Wines and Liquors said he was too busy to talk to a reporter as he rang up a $900 order for a man who said he wanted to beat the tax hike.

And at Valu Liquors in Cheektowaga, manager Joe Molnar said his business has picked up as more customers bought by the case. He wasn't worried about the overall effect of the higher taxes, however.

"Everybody's got to drink, don't they?" he said.

Buffalo area businesses selling big ticket items like luxury cars are finding themselves in the midst of a year-end flurry.

"Right now, we're going crazy," said Joe Cannata, a Mercedes-Benz salesman for Great Lakes Motors on Main Street. "I'm figuring out a deal right now that would have cost a fella another $5,000 next week."

Cannata said the new tax has proved an incentive for anyone thinking about moving up to a luxury car like the Mercedes. Sales have increased 120 percent over this time last year, he said, since most people contemplating such a purchase are moving now to avoid the hikes.

At the Jim Culligan Porsche dealership in Williamsville, where brisk activity also was reported, general manager Albert deBlok said people who can afford to buy cars that cost more than $30,000 still aren't interested in donating a few more thousand to Uncle Sam.

"I think the people who can afford to buy a Porsche didn't get their money by throwing it away," he said. "And they're showing that now."

Furs are a different story, at least at the Bonwit Teller fur salon at the Walden Galleria Mall. Gary Thomas Kelly, assistant fur manager, said interest in furs is running high this month. But he attributes that more to the "new affordability" of furs than to the new tax structure.

"The key issue with furs is that your average Buffalo customer is not as interested in a $10,000 coat," he said. "Buffalo is a very conservative market."

Kelly said markets like Boston, Chicago and Kansas City is where Bonwit Teller experiences its biggest sales in the most expensive furs. Buffalo customers prefer something in the $2,500 to $7,500 range.

Still, Kelly said those interested in a top-of-the-line coat are making inquiries before the deadline.

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