Where Do Sales Tax Holidays Go Beyond School Supplies?

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Eight states give tax breaks on computers, and a few go even further.

The back-to-school shopping season is approaching, and you don’t have to pass any math class to know it’s expensive.

Last year, Americans spent an estimated $83.8 billion on school shopping for both K-12 and college students, the National Retail Federation says. That makes it the second largest spending event of the year, following the winter holidays.

There are plenty of ways to save. To get some ideas, check out this video we shot last year for procrastinators:

One saving strategy those who wait until the last minute miss out on is tax holidays — days when no state sales tax is charged on qualifying items. Most states that offer these breaks schedule them on one of the first two weekends in August, Stateline says. (Mississippi is earlier and Connecticut is later.)

In several places, school supplies and clothes aren’t the only things that qualify. “Some states have broadened the popular holidays beyond school-related items to include other types of clothing, large desktop computers and other electronics. Some now include sheets, blankets, pillows, bedspreads, diapers and baby products,” Stateline says.

In Louisiana, for instance, the first $2,500 spent on almost anything in a retail store qualifies.

Here is a list of states that offer tax breaks on computers and tablets:

  • Alabama (the first $750 is tax-free)
  • Florida ($750)
  • Georgia ($1,000)
  • Missouri ($3,500)
  • New Mexico ($1,000)
  • North Carolina ($3,500)
  • South Carolina (no limit)
  • Tennessee ($1,500)

New Mexico and North Carolina also give a break on computer accessories.

If your state doesn’t have a tax holiday and you wonder why, it’s probably because they’re expensive. “In 2012, the two-day sales Massachusetts tax exemption cost the state $20 million,” Stateline says. Critics argue that they force states to come up with the revenue in other ways.

Stacy Johnson

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