Today marks the heart of the annual back-to-school state sales tax holiday season.
Texas shoppers can pick up school supplies, like these that take up a whole special row at my local H.E.B. grocery store, tax-free this weekend. (Photo by Kay Bell)
Twelve of the 17 tax-free events are this weekend, or part of it.
Iowa’s tax-free and Louisiana’s tax-reduced holidays run from Friday, Aug. 5, through Saturday, Aug. 6.
Tax holidays take place starting today through Sunday, Aug 7, in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Savvy shoppers can save a few bucks, especially if they do a bit of tax holiday preparation. One of the 6 tax-saving shopping tips I suggested in an earlier post was to know exactly what is and isn’t tax free during your state’s holiday.
Tax definitions of clothing: Here in Texas, for example, if I find a belt I like, that apparel accessory is tax-free, saving me 8.25 cents – the Lone Star State’s 6.25 percent state sales tax rate plus my local Austin sales tax – on each dollar up to a maximum $100 per item.
If this belt is really fancy and hits the price cap, I save more than $8 that I can use toward a couple of my favorite Starbucks’ drinks.
But if I happen to see a gorgeous buckle I like better than the one that’s on my new belt, I’ll pay full sales tax, both state and local, on the buckle that I buy separately. So my sales tax savings will go to that instead of my cups of coffee.
Backpacks, which are a must today for kids to lug around all their books and other school material, also are tax-exempt during Texas’ holiday.
These backpacks, also at my H.E.B., meet Texas’ tax-free weekend rules. Now all you have to decide is whether your child wants one with Ninja Turtles, a 21st century R2-D2 or Captain America and his infighting comic book superhero pals. (Photo by Kay Bell)
But be careful about buying one that has rollers that make it easier for a student to tote heavier loads. In order to be tax-free, wheel-equipped packs also must have straps that can be used, in an emergency, to carry the pack the old-fashioned way on the youngster’s back.
Ohio clothing differentiation: Similar tax-free item hair splitting occurs in most states that have tax holidays. Take, for example, Ohio, where I talked to a lot of folks about their second annual tax holiday via Buckeye State radio stations this week.
Ohio’s Department of Taxation’s special web page with details on its holiday notes that tax-free clothing includes, among other things, uniforms. This covers both athletic and nonathletic, say school, uniforms.
“Cool,” say the Ohio parents of youth sports league participants. “We can get Jimmy’s Little League uniform tax-free.”
Yes, you can. But if you also decide to buy Jimmy a new baseball glove, you’ll pay tax on that. Ohio says sports or recreational equipment is not tax-exempt during its three-day tax holiday.
So to avoid tax surprises at the cash register, make sure you know what is and isn’t tax-free during your state’s tax holiday before you go shopping.
Online tax-free options: Maybe you prefer buying online. I also touched on that option in my earlier post here at the ol’ blog. And I elaborated on online sales tax holiday implications in one of my posts last this week at my other tax blog.
Over at Bankrate Taxes Blog, I look at how ordering online (or by email or phone) of eligible items is tax-exempt, too, according to several states’ tax holiday rules. So you can get tax savings without braving the crowds in brick-and-mortar stores.
Also over at Bankrate this week, I blog about what’s essentially become an Olympic event for Congress, the introduction of legislation to provide a tax break for successful U.S. Olympians. This time though, the effort has progressed more than ever before, thanks to Senate approval of a special tax exclusion for Olympic medalists. Final action by the House must wait until after the Summer Games are complete.
I usually post my additional tax thoughts at Bankrate on Tuesday and Thursday. I followed that schedule this week. But instead of waiting until this weekend to highlight those added posts, I’m doing so early, since today we’ve got so many tax holidays and the official opening of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
You also might find these items of interest:
Tax holidays: bonanzas or bogus?
Full, permanent Internet access tax banned
City and other local taxes add to overall sales tax takes