Take Advantage of State’s Tax-Free Back-to-School Shopping Weekend

by Jessica Sommerfield · 8 comments

back to school
There’s still another month or so of summer, but it’s time to start thinking about back-to-school supplies if you’re a parent or student. And, if you’re like most families surveyed by the National Retail Federation, you’ll be spending a little more than last year — as much as 9.6% more.

Market analysts consider it a good sign when we consumers feel comfortable spending more money, but most of us are always looking for little ways to save too. If that’s the case, you might want go shopping… this weekend.

This Weekend?…What?
You’ve probably heard August isn’t the ideal month to shop for school supplies, and that’s mostly true. Many of the more expensive items (minus laptops, which are at their all-time low) are less expensive to buy after Labor Day if you can wait. The clincher is that August is the month most states offer what’s known as a “tax-free” shopping weekend specifically for back to school supplies.

On these days, state sales tax is temporarily withheld on most clothing and school-related supplies under $100 per item (guidelines vary by state). Of the 16 states participating this year, three hold their sales the last weekend in July (sorry, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi). Most do it the first weekend in August, a few later in the month. Here’s this year’s list for August:

  • August 5th through the 7th: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia
  • August 14th through the 20th: Maryland
  • August 21 through the 27th: Connecticut

The rules about what’s tax-free and what isn’t will be listed on your state’s .gov website, usually under the Department of Revenue or comptroller’s page (just search for “sales tax holiday”). Also, don’t get confused by the dates for other tax-free events, such as those for energy-efficient appliances, firearms and hunting gear, etc. Keep in mind that this event doesn’t necessarily include city sales tax, as many cities choose not to participate. Your state or city’s official website should have that information, as well.

Heads Up, Teachers

Parents aren’t the only ones who spend money on back to school items. Surveys from 2015 indicate teachers spent an average of $490 of their own money on supplies for their classrooms. Even though supplies purchases with the school’s funds qualify for tax exemption on a regular basis, we all know it’s never enough. Using your state’s tax-free weekend could help save you a little bit on that ‘above and beyond’ you are so well known for.

Coordinate with Sales

Many retailers play up tax-free back-to-school shopping weekends by offering special sales. You’ll save money on state sales tax regardless of where you shop, so it’s a good opportunity to compare the sales to get the best retail price, too. Keep in mind that if most of the items you need are in one location, you can still ask the store to “comp” lower prices offered by their competitors, and don’t fall for sale ‘illusions.’

I hope this information was helpful. Shopping might not be the way you planned to spend the last few weekends of summer, but it is a good time to save on your family’s back to school essentials with these sales tax holidays.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

Roberta S August 11, 2016 at 7:41 am

I’d like to add that Ohio also had their tax-free weekend on school supplies last weekend, August 6-7. It’s only the second year we’ve had this, but it was apparently very popular last year.

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David Ning August 11, 2016 at 10:29 pm

I can imagine. If you are already going to buy something, then it’s hard to say no to a guaranteed discount!

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Dannielle @ Odd Cents August 9, 2016 at 5:42 am

I wish that I was in the USA to take advantage of those sales. The television ads are driving me nuts. Ten cents for composition books?!?? That is like stationery heaven.

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David Ning August 11, 2016 at 7:36 am

The states do have some awesome sales, but that’s also part of the reason why we as a nation love to consume.

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Latoya @ Femme Frugality August 5, 2016 at 10:49 am

We’re definitely going to be taking advantage of a few sales this weekend. I only have a few things to buy, but since things are on sale and I can couple that with no taxes, I’ll save a little something, right?

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David Ning August 5, 2016 at 8:28 pm

Every little bit helps, so take the time to go buy some this weekend. It’ll also make the shopping trip easier in a few weeks too since you won’t have as many things to buy.

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Hank August 5, 2016 at 7:34 am

As a grandfather with both great & g-great grandkids (5) in elementary schools I told the mothers I would spring for the needed backpacks & school supplies (paper & pencils) we have no sales tax in my home state so no added expense there. The schools had got together & devised a requested list of supplies for grades K-6. Taking list in hand & the 5 little urchins along with their mothers my wife ventured out. Over $300 later they arrived here each with a backpack & brown paper sack, loaded with supples. When I was in grade school all the paper, crayons were supplied by the school & we were issued one #2 pencil every 6 weeks, which I promptly lost. My property taxes go up every year, you would think they could budget their money better. I guess the retirement rolls for educators is so bloated that pyramid scheme needs to be funded somehow as does my SS.

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David Ning August 5, 2016 at 8:27 pm

Over at my kids school there’s even a company that will just send you that list of supplies for a fee if you don’t want to go out and buy each item on the list by yourself. Of course they mark it up over retail pricing for the convenience so maybe you can make a business out of this since you are already buying like 5 sets.

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