How would you like to get a discount of 4% (or substantially more) on your back-to-school shopping, on top of whatever seasonal promotion a retailer might offer? Plan ahead and you could. Seventeen states have annual sales tax holidays, when they waive taxes on essentials such as clothes, school supplies and computers. Students, teachers and parents aren’t the only ones who can save money. Some states even extend the offer to hunting equipment, appliances and supplies to help you be prepared in case of severe weather.
The dates of the tax holidays vary by state, but they commonly fall on a weekend and some even extend to a week during the summer months.
These promotions – which represent foregone tax revenue for states (and localities) – come and go. Louisiana, for example, dropped two of its sales tax holidays for 2019. Still alive, though, is the state’s Second Amendment sales tax holiday, which exempts firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies from the local portion of Louisiana’s sales tax.
Don’t want to get caught in the tax-free rush at the mall? Amazon.com and Walmart.com will honor the tax holidays online, too.
Here’s a look at the 17 states that offer sales tax holidays, as well as the products that qualify in each state. The exemptions cover all sales taxes due in each state unless specified.
Alabama (July 19-21)
- Clothing and shoes that cost $100 or less per item, though there are exceptions to the exempt items.
- Computers and computer accessories that, as a combined package, cost $750 or less (computer accessories sold separately from the central processing unit are not eligible).
- School supplies that cost $50 or less per item.
- Books (ones that are published and have an ISBN number) that cost $30 or less.
Alabama (Feb. 21-23, 2020)
- Alabama will also offer relief from state sales taxes next February on “severe weather preparedness” items, including generators costing $1,000 or less and supplies for $60 or less per item. Sample items include batteries, first-aid kits, ice packs and fuel containers.
Note: As with Alabama’s back-to-school tax holiday, state sales tax (4%) is waived, but not necessarily local option taxes.
Arkansas (August 3-4)
- Clothing that costs less than $100 per item.
- Clothing accessories or equipment, including handbags, jewelry, wigs and watches, that cost less than $50 per item.
- School supplies and art supplies most commonly used in art courses, with no set price restrictions.
- A limited selection of school instructional materials, including reference maps, workbooks and textbooks.
- Though most back-to-school essentials are exempt from taxes during the holiday, there are a few exceptions. Sewing, protective and sports equipment, for example, can be taxed.
Connecticut (August 18-24)
- Clothing and shoes (excluding accessories and athletic equipment) that cost less than $100 per item are exempt from the state’s 6.35% sales tax.
Florida (Aug. 2-4)
- Clothing, shoes and bags, excluding briefcases and suitcases, priced at $60 or less per item.
- School supplies priced at $15 or less per item.
- Computers and computer accessories for noncommercial use priced at $1,000 or less. If the computer exceeds the limit, only the first $1,000 of the total price will be exempt from taxes.
Iowa (August 2-3)
- Most clothing and shoes, excluding accessories and athletic equipment, that cost less than $100 per item.
Louisiana (Sept. 6-8)
- Firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment, excluding animals used for hunting purposes and taxidermy equipment, are exempt from Louisiana’s local option sales taxes, which range as high as 7%. The 4% state sales tax is still due. Other exceptions to the tax exemptions can be found here.
Maryland (Aug. 11-17)
- Most clothing items and shoes (excluding accessories) costing $100 or less are exempt from the 6% state sales tax.
- Backpacks and book bags sold for $40 or less are exempt, but if the item exceeds the price limit, then only the first $40 is tax-exempt.
Maryland (Feb. 15-17, 2020)
- Maryland will also offer relief from its 6% sales tax on February 15-17, 2020, on certain Energy Star products, such as air conditioners, washers and dryers, and furnaces that meet Federal Energy Star efficiency requirements .
Massachusetts (Aug. 10-11)
- Massachusetts is reintroducing a sales tax holiday in 2019 with a short but generous program: “Tangible personal property” costing $2,500 or less is exempt from the 5% state sales tax. There are few exclusions, but they include motor vehicles, motorboats, tobacco and marijuana products.
Mississippi (July 26-27)
- Clothing and shoes (excluding accessories and sports equipment) costing less than $100.
Mississippi (Aug. 30-Sept. 1)
- Firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment, excluding animals used for hunting purposes and taxidermy equipment.
Missouri (August 2-4)
- Clothes, excluding accessories, that cost $100 or less per item.
- Computers with a value of $1,500 or less.
- School supplies that cost $50 or less per purchase.
- Graphing calculators costing $150 or less.
Note: While the 4% state sales tax is waived during the holiday, localities may still levy sales taxes, which range as high as 5%. Be sure to check your district’s rules before going shopping.
Missouri (Aug. 19-25)
- On August 19-25, Missouri will also offer relief from the 4% state sales tax on products such as air conditioners, washers and dryers, and furnaces that meet Federal Energy Star efficiency requirements.
Note: As with Missouri’s back-to-school tax holiday, state sales tax (4%) is waived, but not necessarily local option taxes.
New Mexico (August 3-5)
- Clothing and shoes (excluding accessories and athletic gear) that cost less than $100 per item.
- Computers and tablets priced at $1,000 or less per item, as well as computer hardware that costs $500 or less.
- All school supplies costing less than $30 per item.
- There are a few exceptions, which are listed here .
Note: Not all retailers are required to take part in the tax-free holiday. Small businesses have their own tax-free day on November 30.
Ohio (August 2-4)
- Clothing items (excluding accessories) priced at $75 or less per item.
- School supplies costing $20 or less per item.
- School instructional materials priced at $20 or less per item.
Oklahoma (August 2-4)
- Most clothing and footwear (excluding accessories and athletic shoes) sold for less than $100.
South Carolina (Aug. 2-4)
- Clothing, shoes and some accessories, excluding jewelry, with no set price restrictions.
- Computers, computer software, printers and printing supplies.
- Dormitory and bathroom essentials, excluding mattresses and furniture.
Tennessee (July 26-28)
- Clothing (excluding accessories and sportswear) that costs $100 or less per item.
- Computers, including tablets, priced at $1,500 or less, excluding computer accessories.
- School supplies and school art supplies that cost $100 or less per item.
Texas (August 9-11)
- Clothing and shoes, excluding athletic apparel and footwear, that cost less than $100.
- Backpacks and school supplies costing less than $100.
Virginia (August 2-4)
- Clothing and shoes that cost $100 or less per item.
- School supplies that cost $20 or less per item.
- During the same dates, Virginia will offer tax-free sales on certain products that meet Federal Energy Star efficiency requirements, as well as WaterSense products, costing $2,500 or less per item.
- Emergency preparedness products, such as portable generators costing $1,000 or less and other supplies that cost $60 or less, are also tax-free.
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mckenzie richmond, intern, kiplinger.com
july 1, 2019