Sales Tax Holiday :: More Than Back to School Shopping

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family back to school shoppingThe 17th annual back-to-school sales tax holiday is set for this weekend. But what does that mean exactly? Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 15 through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, July 17, shoppers are invited to take advantage of reduced state and local sales taxes on many back-to-school staples. (This includes many items unrelated to the “back to school” time of year, too.)

Before you set out to the stores, take a look at this quick guide to save a little more when you shop this weekend.

Items that Save

According to the Alabama Department of Revenue, the annual sales tax holiday is designed to give shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain school supplies, computers, and clothing free of state sales tax.

Clothing

Deal: In general, all general-use clothing under $100 per item will be sales tax exempt. This includes all the basics from underwear to school uniforms to winter gear like jackets and hats for both adults and children. Diapers are included as part of the clothing exemption so now is a great time to stock up for your babies!

No Deal: The clothing exemptions do not cover any items classified as accessories, safety wear, or sports equipment. Skip things like jewelry, purses, and cosmetics. If you are shopping for upcoming sports seasons you can expect a reduced rate on clothing like football pants and compression gear but not on the specialty cleats or pads.

Computers

Deal: For the purposes of weekend sales, the computer category includes nearly all personal computing devices such as laptops, Chromebooks, desktops, and tower computer systems. The exemption also covers a range of accessories like printers, keyboards, and select software. This is also a great time to stock up on printer paper and ink for your home or office.

No Deal: Unfortunately the exemption doesn’t cover cell phones or any personal electronics. Sorry kiddos, video game systems and their games definitely do not count in this sale.

Supplies

Deal: The category of school supplies for the sales tax holiday is extremely broad. Just about anything and everything on your kids’ supply list will be tax-exempt, provided each item is less than $50. In addition to the basics like folders, pencils, glue sticks, and markers; art supplies and bags are also included. If someone in your house enjoys art as a hobby, then get ready to stock up! The sales tax exemption includes sketch pads, paints, clay glazes, and more. 

My girls are always after new backpacks, lunch bags, and pencil pouches. I try to avoid buying new every year, but if we are in need I always make sure we buy during the sales tax holiday to save a little extra.

Educators can take advantage of the tax holiday and stock up on items for the classroom.  We try to pick up a few items we know classrooms will need like copy paper, paper towels, and post-it notes to send along with the kids at the start of the year. 

No Deal: Furniture is one category that is not covered, so maybe now is not the best time to look for dorm room or locker accessories. Just about everything else is fair game, though. 

Sales Tax By the Numbers

How much can you really save by shopping during the sales tax holiday? The exact number will vary by county and city. Sales tax is comprised of three different elements:

  1. an Alabama state tax of 4%
  2. a variable city tax
  3. a variable county tax

Where I am in Hoover, I can expect to pay only 1% on the Jefferson County tax instead of the combined 9.5% I would pay on the same goods any other day of the year. It’s no black Friday or Amazon Prime Day, but it’s still better than nothing. And, unlike many other special in-store offers and promotions, this sales tax exemption is on top of any existing promotional or special sale prices stores are already offering. 

Shop Local

The sales-tax holiday is for more than parents with children heading back to school! 

Some of my favorite chain retailers like Target, Old Navy, and Office Max are having big sales that happen to coincide with the tax-free weekend. Be sure to check your favorite local boutiques or bookstores and take advantage of their best sale prices, too. Many area small businesses will offer additional discounts or extended hours to encourage you to shop local this weekend. 

If you are an office supply junkie like I am, this is also a great opportunity to restock personal favorites. I am a sucker for bright spiral-bound notebooks and a good desk calendar. If colorful markers and planners are your jam, use this weekend to load up at the best sale prices!

Happy sales-tax holiday weekend shopping!

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