Slash Back-to-School Spending on Sales Tax Holidays

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Seventeen states offer a brief annual break from sales tax so residents can save on back-to-school shopping. Find out if your state participates.

Now that July is winding down, the official back-to-school shopping season is in full swing.

The National Retail Federation projects that American families will spend an average of $674 on back-to-school items like clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics, up from $630 last year.

In an effort to help American families meet their back-to-school shopping needs without breaking the bank, some states offer sales tax holidays, when select items — typically clothing, footwear and school supplies — can be purchased tax-free.

Each of the 17 states offering sales tax holidays during the back-to-school shopping season has its own criteria for qualifying purchases, as well as maximum purchase limits, so make sure you click on your state’s link below to find specific information for your state before you shop.

These states are holding back-to-school tax-free weekends:

Although Massachusetts typically offers a back-to-school tax-free holiday weekend, lawmakers there decided to skip it this year, citing the state’s financial woes.

“We were running short on the revenue estimate in the last several months in the last fiscal year and we predict that we’ll be at least $600 million short on revenues,” said State Rep. Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich.

The effectiveness of the annual tax holidays as a policy tool is debatable. A recent report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy determined that these tax-free periods are “poorly targeted and too temporary to meaningfully change the regressive nature of a state’s tax system.” But they are still an opportunity to stretch your dollar further on back-to-school supplies.

I’m lucky to live in Montana, where every shopping trip is sales tax free. Montana is one of a handful of states without a sales tax.

Do you take advantage of tax-free weekends? What kind of savings have you experienced? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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