Don’t expect to run into Nicole Fletcher on Friday during the sales tax holiday weekend sales.
For one thing, she already has done the back-to-school shopping for her four kids.
Perhaps more significantly, she usually avoids the crowds looking to save the 8.25 percent sale tax.
“We’ve already done our shopping, but that usually isn’t the norm,” she said. “We usually don’t shop (during the sales tax holiday weekend) because of the crowds. It’s like my husband says: it’s just eight percent off. If you walked past a sale that was 10 percent off, you wouldn’t be impressed.”
However, plenty of other people will be out starting Friday, whether it’s to save the money or if it’s because the start of school is getting perilously closer.
Savings are available Friday-Monday throughout the state. Many stores also offer discounted prices, adding to shoppers' savings.
“It’s huge,” said Michelle Parker, Mall of Abilene marketing director. “It’s not as big as Black Friday (the Friday following Thanksgiving) or Christmas Eve, but it’s big.”
How much is saved not known
The sales tax holiday weekend is one of the three designated by the state.
In April, people can save the sales tax on certain emergency-preparedness items and Memorial Day weekend, Texans pay no sales tax on water-efficient products and Texas EnergyStar-designated products. But those two weekends pale in comparison to the weekend in which people can save on items for back-to-school shopping.
For years, the state said the event was not to save parents of schoolchildren money, but the timing certainly helps with efforts. Over the years, more school-related items qualified for savings.
The state comptroller’s office estimates that Texans pocket about $102 million in savings.
Though the holiday has been around since 1999, most of the information you get about it is anecdotal.
The comptroller’s office doesn’t break down the savings by cities or region, and Mike Rains, the finance director for the city of Abilene, said he doesn’t know how much money stays in people’s pockets rather than go into the city’s coffers.
“The money we don’t get is the unknown,” he said. “I guess we could break it down store by store, but we haven’t done that. We know what we usually get in August and we budget for that. We’re just grateful to get it.”
Some items will sell quickly
Sarah Moore, manager of the Shoe Department store at the mall, said the weekend is the biggest of the year for her store, surpassing even Black Friday. The days leading up to the weekend are big for her store as well as the Salvation Army will bring children there for school shoes.
If you’ve been window-shopping a pair of shoes at the store, you might want to grab them early.
“We get more stock from corporate for this weekend, but, yeah, you might want to go ahead and make sure you get them,” she said.
Walmart, which one would assume would do a big back-to-school business, said it didn’t calculate the impact of the sales tax holiday on its individual stores.
Make sure your purchase qualifies
The sales tax exemption applies to certain items priced under $100. It might not apply to everything on a child’s school supply list. For instance, notebook paper wouldn’t be taxed, but hand sanitizer and a box of tissue would be. If you buy school supplies already bundled, only the approved items would be untaxed.
When it comes to clothing, the same $100 limit applies and certain items aren’t exempted. For instance, a golf cap wouldn’t be taxed, but a pair of golf shoes (if dad is trying to sneak in a pair) would be taxed.
Using Moore’s store as an example, the shoes and socks would be exempt from the sales tax, but not bags and wallets or shoe polish.
The state’s comptroller’s website, www.comptroller.texas.gov, has a list of items that are exempt and those that aren’t.
A store cannot advertise that it will pay the sales tax for non-exempted items, but it could include the sales tax on the price of an advertised item.
What is tax free?
School/office supplies: Eligible items include backpacks (limit 10 per purchase), book bags, calculators, chalk, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, highlighters, index cards, legal pads, lunch boxes, markers, notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, protractors, rulers, school supply kits, scissors, writing tablets.
Clothing: Aprons, athletic socks, baby clothes, belts, blouses, boots, bras, caps, children's novelty costumes, coats, diapers, dresses, earmuffs, employee uniforms, gloves, gym suits, hooded shirts and sweatshirts, hunting vests, jackets, jeans, jerseys, jogging apparel, leotards and tights, neckware, pajamas, pants, raincoats/ponchos, religious clothing, scarves, scout uniforms, shawls and wraps, shirts, shoes, shorts, skirts, slippers, socks, suits, suspenders, sweatshirts, sweaters, swimsuits, undershirts and uniforms.
What is not tax free?
School/office supplies: Computers, textbooks and other items not in the above list.
Certain bags, cases and luggage: Athletic, duffel or gym bags; briefcases; computer bags; framed backpacks; luggage; and purses.
Clothing: Accessories (barrettes, belt buckles, bobby pins, elastic ponytail holders, hair bows and clips, handbags, handkerchiefs, headbands, jewelry, key cases, purses, wallets and watches), alterations, bulletproof vests, buttons and zippers, embroidery, fabrics, gloves (gardening, protective, rubber, sports, surgical or work), goggles, hair nets, helmets, insoles, life jackets, pads, paint, safety clothing, scuba equipment, shoelaces, skates, sports shoes and equipment, umbrellas.
By Scott Kirk
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