August Ushers in State Sales-Tax Holidays

August 2, 2010
Michael Sheehan

The dog days of August have arrived, and that means state sales-tax holidays aren't far behind. Aimed at back-to-school shoppers, sales-tax holidays are designed to lure more consumers into retail outlets and encourage them to spend more. Some 15 states are planning to hold sales-tax holidays this month.

The dog days of August have arrived, and that means state sales-tax holidays aren’t far behind. Typically aimed at back-to-school shoppers, sales-tax holidays are designed to lure more consumers into retail outlets and encourage them to spend more. Currently, 15 states are planning to hold sales-tax holidays during the month of August, with most of the tax-free periods starting on August 6.

The length of the tax-free holidays varies from state to state, with some lasting a whole week and others being held for just a few days over a weekend. The types of items you can buy without having to pony up the sales tax also differ depending on the state. The majority of the states allow tax-free purchases on commonly purchased back-to-school items, including clothing and school supplies, which in some states includes computers. In Louisiana, however, almost any purchase of tangible property can be tax-free.

Most states also have a maximum amount that is tax-free. Louisiana may allow you buy just about anything tax-free, but there’s a maximum purchase of $2,500. Some state maximums are fairly generous. In Missouri, for example, you can spend up to $3,500 on computers and peripherals and pay no tax. Others are not -- in Alabama, the most you can spend on computers without paying sales tax is $750. South Carolina, on the other hand, has no maximums at all and Illinois puts no maximum on school supplies.

For a list of states with tax holidays this year, check out consumer blog ConsumerismCommentary. States also have a mish-mash of rules that touch on telephone and online purchases, as well as rain checks and layaways. For details, go to your state’s website.