Back-to-school may look different in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that parents and teachers won’t be shopping. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers could spend a record amount in 2020 to prepare students for school and college as they buy more laptops and computer accessories for online and hybrid schools. 

“By any measure, this is an unprecedented year with great uncertainty, including how students will get their education this fall whether they are in kindergarten or college,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Most parents don’t know whether their children will be sitting in a classroom or in front of a computer in the dining room, or a combination of the two. But they do know the value of an education and are navigating uncertainty and unknowns so that students are prepared.”

According to the NRF survey, parents with children in elementary school through high school say they plan to spend an average of $789.49 per family, topping the previous record of $696.70. College students and their families expect to pay an average of $1,059.20 per family, more than last year’s record of $976.78. Total spending for K-12 and college combined is projected to reach $101.6 billion, topping last year’s $80.7 billion and exceeding the $100 billion mark.

Not surprisingly, many shoppers plan to buy online – and top of the list? Computers and other electronics. 

With those expenses looming, parents are often looking for opportunities to save some cash. One of the ways that they do it? Sales tax holidays.

Here’s a look at states offering taxpayers a break on sales tax for back-to-school items this year:

  • Connecticut (August 16-22) Exemptions apply to purchases of clothing and footwear ($100 or less per item), excluding clothing accessories, protective or athletic clothing, and some shoes including ballet, bicycle, bowling, cleats, football, golf, track, jazz, tap, and turf (but note that aerobic, basketball, boat and running shoes are exempt).
  • Florida (August 7-9) Exemptions include clothing, shoes, wallets, handbags, and backpacks that cost $60 or less. Computers that cost less than $1,000 and school supplies, such as pens, pencils, binders, and lunch boxes that cost less than $15 are also included.
  • Iowa (August 7-8) Exemptions apply to purchases of clothing or footwear (up to $100 per item); for any item that costs $100 or more, sales tax applies to the entire price.
  • Maryland (August 9-15) Exemptions apply to purchases of clothing and footwear ($100 or less per item), including sweaters, shirts, slacks, jeans, dresses, robes, underwear, belts, shoes, and boots priced at $100 or less. Accessories, including jewelry, watches, watchbands, handbags, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, scarves, ties, headbands and belt buckles will remain taxable, as will special clothing or footwear designed primarily for protective use (and not for normal wear) such as football pads.
  • Massachusetts(August 28-29) Retail items of up to $2,500, purchased in Massachusetts for personal use on these two days, will be exempt from sales tax (exceptions apply).
  • Mississippi (July 26-27). Exemptions apply to purchases of clothing and footwear ($100 or less per item regardless of how many items are sold at the same time); accessory items such as jewelry, handbags, wallets, watches, backpacks and similar items are not included. Footwear does not include cleats and items worn in conjunction with an athletic or recreational activity.
  • Missouri (August 7-9) Exemptions apply to purchases of clothing ($100 or less per item), school supplies ($50 or less per purchase), computer software ($350 or less), personal computers or computer peripheral devices ($1,500 or less) and graphing calculators ($150 or less). Some cities have opted not to participate (check the website for specifics), although, in those circumstances, the state’s portion of the tax rate will remain exempt.
  • New Mexico (August 7-9) Exemptions apply to purchases of footwear and clothing, excluding accessories ($100 or less per item); school supplies ($30 or less per item); computers ($1,000 or less per item); computer peripherals ($500 or less per item); and book bags and backpacks ($100 or less per item).
  • Ohio (August 7-9) Exemptions apply to purchases of clothing ($75 or less per item). Note that the exemption applies to clothing selling for $75 or less. If a piece of clothing sells for more than $75, the tax is due on the entire selling price. Exemptions also apply to school supplies ($20 or less per item) and instructional materials ($20 or less per item).
  • Oklahoma (August 7-9) Exemptions apply to purchases of clothing and footwear ($100 or less per item). The exemption does not apply to the sale of any accessories, special clothing or footwear primarily designed for athletic activity or protective use that is not usually worn except when used for athletic activity or protective use, or to the rental of clothing or footwear. Qualified items are exempt from state, city, county, and local municipality sales taxes.
  • South Carolina (August 7-9) Exemptions apply to a variety of back-to-school essentials, from clothing, accessories, and shoes to school supplies, backpacks, and computers. Shoppers will also find tax-free items for the home and dorm room.
  • Tennessee (August 7-9) The back-to-school holiday weekend has passed, but Tennessee is offering a second opportunity to save this year: During this time, the retail sale of food and drink by restaurants and limited-service restaurants, is exempt from sales tax.
  • Texas (August 7-9) The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100 from sales and use taxes from a Texas store or from an online or catalog seller doing business in Texas.
  • Virginia (August 7-9) Exemptions apply to purchases of clothing and footwear ($100 or less per item) and school supplies ($20 or less per item). Sports or recreational items are not exempt from tax. The holiday also applies to hurricane and emergency preparedness items, and Energy Star™ and WaterSense™ products.

Looking for more information? Some states are pretty specific about the exemptions. You can find a link to each state’s sales tax holiday website by clicking on the state’s name.

**A few states, like Alabama and Arkansas, have already held their 2020 sales tax holidays. 

Keep in mind that some states have no statewide sales tax (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon), while others (like Pennsylvania and Vermont) already exempt some necessities like clothing. Also, keep in mind that some states offer counties and towns the option not to participate, so again, check with your state if you have questions.

I’ll update the list as information is made available (feel free to reach out to me with changes or updates that you notice). Happy shopping!

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