Time to Stock Up on Guns & School Supplies: States Announce Sales Tax Holidays

It’s that time of year again! Despite evidence that state sales tax holidays actually cost taxpayers money, many states have renewed their temporary reprieve on state sales tax collections for certain back-to-school and hurricane preparedness items – oh, and guns (let’s not forget the guns). Politically, sales tax holidays are “feel good” legislative acts: they sound good for voters and it is an important election year. Fiscally, not great policy. But hey, why let sound fiscal sense muck up a good election push?

Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, and Guam impose sales taxes on the sale or lease of many goods. Five states actually have no state sales tax (though there may be local applicable sales taxes): Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon. Of those forty-five states, just under half offer some sort of break on sales tax for back to school items, energy efficient appliances, hurricane preparedness and hunting items. Those numbers are down from the peak of sales tax holiday fever in 2010.

Here’s what I’ve found to be exempt so far:

  • Alabama. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. (CST) on Friday August 3, 2012, and ending at twelve midnight on Sunday August 5, 2012, the following exemptions apply: clothing (not accessories or protective or recreational equipment) with a sales price of $100 or less per item; single purchases, with a sales price of $750 or less, of computer and related equipment (for purposes of the exemption, a computer may include a laptop, desktop, or tower computer system which consists of a central processing unit (CPU), and devices such as a display monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers sold as a computer package); noncommercial purchases of school supplies, school art supplies and school instructional materials with a sales price of $50 or less per item; and noncommercial book purchases with a sales price of $30 or less (newspapers and magazines remain taxable).
  • Arkansas. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday August 4, 2012, and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday August 5, 2012, the following exemptions apply: clothing with a sales price of $100 or less (belt buckles not included); clothing accessory or equipment (including cosmetics – but not soap) with a sales price of $50 or less; school art supplies, school instructional materials and school supplies.
  • Connecticut. From Sunday, August 19 through Saturday, August 25, 2012, clothing and footwear costing less than $300 per item are exempt from state sales tax.
  • Florida. Begining at 12:01 a.m., Friday, August 3, 2012, and ending at midnight Sunday, August 5, 2012, no Florida sales tax or local option tax will be collected on sales of clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $75 or less per item, or on certain school supplies (books are not considered school supplies) selling for $15 or less per item. The holiday exemption does not apply sales of such items made within a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment or airport (I believe this would be the “Disney” exception).
  • Georgia. An Energy and WaterSense Sales Tax Holiday will take place on October 5 through October 7, 2012. The state and local sales tax exemption will apply to dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, fluorescent light bulbs, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats, refrigerators, doors and windows purchased for home use that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR requirements with a sales price of $1,500 or less and WaterSense-labeled products, including bathroom faucets and toilets, purchased for personal use with a sales price of $1,500 or less.
  • Iowa. Beginning on 12:01 a.m., August 3, 2012, through midnight, August 4, 2012, no sales tax, including local option sales tax, will be collected on sales of an article of clothing or footwear having a selling price less than $100.00. Clothing does not include watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, sporting equipment, skis, swim fins, roller blades, skates, and any special clothing or footwear designed primarily for athletic activity or protective use and not usually considered appropriate for everyday wear.
  • Louisiana. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, August 3, through 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, August 4, the first $2,500 of the sales price of noncommercial purchases (not leases) of items of tangible personal property (not vehicles or meals) are exempt. The holiday exemption does not apply to local taxes though St. Charles Parish will waive its local sales tax during that time. Louisiana will also observe its Second Amendment holiday from Friday, September 7, 2012, through Sunday, September 9, 2012, during which the purchase of firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies are exempt. Hunting supplies do not include dogs, toy guns and vessels or off road vehicles utilized as children’s toys (I did not make this up, folks, it’s on the web site). The state also observed a hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday earlier in the year (May) which has expired.
  • Maryland. The second Sunday of August to the following Saturday (August 12-18) is designated as Shop Maryland Week. That means qualifying apparel and footwear $100 or less are exempt from the Maryland 6% sales tax. Additionally, there will be a tax-free three-day weekend during which the sales and use tax will not apply to the sale of certain Energy Star Products, or solar water heater. This tax-free weekend will occur the weekend of February 16, 2013, through February 18, 2013.
  • Mississippi. Mississippi’s annual Sales Tax Holiday came early this year (12:01 a.m. Friday, July 27, 2012 through 12:00 midnight Saturday, July 28, 2012) and has already expired.
  • Missouri. Begining on 12:01 a.m. on Friday, August 3, through Sunday, August 5), state sales tax is exempt from back to school items such as clothing, school supplies, computers, and other items as defined by the statute, are exempt from sales tax. Some cities, counties and districts have opted not to participate (a list of those are available on the web site).
  • New Mexico. New Mexico’s tax holiday is a little different than many other states. No gross receipts taxes will be collected for purchases made on 12:01 a.m. Friday, August 3, 2012 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, August 5, 2012 for certain items if retailers choose to participate. Generally, clothing or shoes which cost less than $100 are exempt; desktop, laptop or notebook computers priced at less than $1,000 are exempt and computer hardware under $500 is exempt. School supplies for use in standard, general-education classrooms must be under $30 per unit.
  • North Carolina. Beginning 12:01 A.M. on the first Friday in August and running through 11:59 P.M. the following Sunday, exemptions will apply to clothing, footwear, and school supplies of $100 or less per item; school instructional materials of $300 or less per item; sports and recreation equipment of $50 or less per item, computers of $3,500 or less per item; and computer supplies of $250 or less per item will be exempt. Clothing accessories, jewelry, cosmetics, protective equipment, wallets, furniture, items used in a trade or business, and rentals are not covered by the exemption. Additionally, between 12:01 A.M. on the first Friday in November and 11:59 P.M. the following Sunday, certain Energy Star qualified products are exempt – with no cost threshold – from sales tax. This includes clothes washers, freezers, refrigerators, central air conditioners, room air conditioners, air-source heat pumps, ceiling fans, dehumidifiers, and programmable thermostats.
  • Oklahoma. Beginning at 12:01 am on Friday, August 3, 2012 and ending at twelve midnight on Sunday, August 5, 2012, most items of clothing and shoes that cost less than $100 are exempt from state and local sales taxes.
  • South Carolina. Beginning on Friday, August 3, 2012 at 12:01 a.m. and ending Sunday, August 5, 2012, the 6% state sales and use tax, and any applicable local sales and use tax, will not be imposed on clothing, clothing accessories (e.g., hats, scarves, hosiery, and handbags), footwear, school supplies (e.g., pens, pencils, paper, binders, notebooks, books, bookbags, lunchboxes, and calculators), computers, printers and printer supplies, computer software, and bath wash clothes, blankets, bed spreads, bed linens, sheet sets, comforter sets, bath towels, shower curtains, bath rugs and mats, pillows, and pillow cases. The sales tax holiday, however, does not apply to sales of jewelry, cosmetics, eyewear, wallets, watches, furniture, rental of clothing or footwear, items for use in a business, or items placed on layaway or similar deferred payment and delivery plans. South Carolina did not re-up it’s “gun tax holiday” for 2012 after canceling it in 2011.
  • Tennessee. Beginning at 12:01 a.m on Friday, August 3 and ending Sunday, August 5 at 11:59 p.m., clothing and school supplies with a sales price of $100 or less per item; and computers with a sales price of $1,500 or less per item are exempt from sales tax.
  • Texas. Texas shoppers get a break from state and local sales taxes from August 17 to August 19. The exemption applies to most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks.
  • Virginia. Durign the first weekend of August (August 3-5, 2012), purchases of qualifying school supplies selling for $20 or less per item, and purchases of qualifying clothing and footwear selling for $100 or less per item will be exempt from sales tax. Additionally, during October 5-8, 2012, purchases of products meeting the Energy Star and WaterSense qualifications, such as certain energy-efficient appliances, will be exempt from sales tax. Eligible products must be priced at $2,500 or less for each item, and be purchased for noncommercial home or personal use. The state’s hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday has expired (it was in May 2012).

Remember that some local governments may still charge sales taxes and some restrictions may apply – check your state’s web site before you shop!

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