16 States That Give Back-to-School Shoppers a Tax Break

Doug Whiteman
16 States That Give Back-to-School Shoppers a Tax Break

In a tradition that began more than 20 years ago, several states will offer days of tax-free shopping on back-to-school items that can include clothes, backpacks, laptops and more.

Anybody can get the deal: All clothing qualifies, and if your state's tax holiday covers computers, you don't have to be a parent to buy one without sales tax.

Chains such as Target often plan sales around the holidays, to add savings on top of your savings. The sales tax breaks typically extend to online shopping, too.

Here are 16 states holding back-to-school tax holidays in 2019, starting with the earliest.

Alabama

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When: July 19-21

During Alabama's tax holiday, the state's 4% sales tax won't apply to articles of clothing priced at $100 or less, school supplies costing $50 or less, or any bound book with a selling price of $30 or under.

And here's the best deal: Alabama consumers will pay no sales tax on purchases of computers or computer supplies (including printers) totaling $750 or less.

Officials say shoppers might still have to pay local sales tax during the holiday period.

Mississippi

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When: July 26-27

Shoppers hitting stores in Mississippi get a two-day holiday from sales taxes on school supplies, clothing and footwear items priced below $100.

The state's Department of Revenue says that while belts and hats qualify as clothing, the tax break does not extend to skis, swim fins or roller blades.

The promotion spares Mississippians from the state's usual 7% sales tax.

Tennessee

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When: July 26-28

The back-to-school tax holiday in Tennessee makes clothing, shoes, school supplies (including backpacks) and art supply items tax-free — if the price is $100 or less.

You also pay no tax on computers or tablets costing up to $1,500.

You can make your back-to-school savings even sweeter by paying with a cash-back credit card. Tennessee ordinarily charges a 7% sales tax.

Iowa

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When: Aug. 2-3

The Hawkeye State's tax holiday gives Iowa shoppers two days of relief from state and local sales taxes on clothing and footwear items that cost less than $100.

Officials say the tax break does not extend to umbrellas, handkerchiefs, jewelry or specialty athletic shoes you wouldn't wear out on the street. But the list of eligible items does include diapers, bedroom slippers and wedding gowns.

If you're buying shoes that cost $120, officials say you can't claim you've really got two $60 items and hope to avoid the sales tax — it doesn't work that way. Sales taxes usually tack on an average 6.82% to purchases in Iowa, says the Tax Foundation.

Missouri

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When: Aug. 2-4

The back-to-school sales tax holiday in Missouri offers tax-free shopping when you buy clothing items that cost $100 or under, or make school supply purchases of up to $50.

But the savings don't stop there. You also will pay no tax on personal computers or peripheral items (like printers) costing up to $1,500 each, or on software valued at $350 or less.

Note that some Missouri cities and counties choose not to participate in the holiday. (Humbug!) In those cases, you still pay local sales taxes but not the state's 4.225% tax.

New Mexico

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When: Aug. 2-4

New Mexico gives a three-day sales tax break on clothing and shoes priced at less than $100, and on standard school supply items that cost less than $30 each.

The tax holiday also means no sales tax on desktop, laptop, tablet or notebook computers costing less than $1,000.

If you're buying computer equipment — including a printer, hard drive or motherboard — you pay no tax if the price is under $500. During the holiday "bonanza," as the state calls it, New Mexicans are off the hook from sales taxes averaging 7.82%.

Ohio

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When: Aug. 2-4

Ohioans are getting an opportunity for some tax-free retail therapy — maybe to help them get over a fresh 10.5-cent increase in the state's gasoline tax.

The sales tax holiday means no taxes on clothing items priced at $75 or less, or on school supplies and textbooks that cost $20 or under.

Ohioans ordinarily pay sales taxes averaging 7.17%, the Tax Foundation says.

Oklahoma

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When: Aug. 2-4

In Oklahoma, the three-day tax holiday means no state or local sales taxes on clothing and footwear items priced at less than $100.

Goods included in the tax break include: aprons; diapers; belts; slippers; underwear; wedding apparel; bathing suits; and costumes (but not masks).

The usual sales taxes in Oklahoma average out to 8.92%. Want more MoneyWise? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

South Carolina

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When: Aug. 2-4

South Carolina offers one of best back-to-school deals around.

The state's three-day tax holiday suspends state and local sales taxes on clothing, accessories, clothing and computers — regardless of the price. The tax break even extends to bed and bath items, including bed sheets, towels and shower curtains.

Sales taxes in the Palmetto State normally average 7.43%. South Carolina's Department of Revenue says in past years, holiday weekend shoppers have saved up to $3 million.

Virginia

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When: Aug. 2-4

Virginia's three-day sales tax holiday offers deals on not only back-to-school items but also hurricane preparedness gear, and energy- and water-saving products.

You pay no tax on clothing or shoes priced at $100 or less, or on individual school supplies that cost $20 or less.

Average 5.65% sales taxes also are suspended if you buy:

  • Portable generators costing $1,000 or less.
  • Gas-powered chainsaws priced at $350 or under.
  • Other hurricane supplies that cost $60 or less.
  • Energy Star appliances and WaterSense items (such as faucets, showerheads and toilets) costing $2,500 or under.

Florida

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When: Aug. 2-6

In Florida, back-to-school shoppers get a full five days to enjoy back-to-school sales tax savings.

During the holiday, clothing, accessories and shoes priced at up to $60 are tax-free. "Accessories" include purses, bibs, hunting vests, bicycle helmets, fanny packs and martial arts attire. "Shoes" include slippers and bowling shoes.

Shoppers also pay no sales tax on individual school supplies selling for $15 or less, or on computers and related gear (including monitors, printers and web cameras) costing up to $1,000. Sales taxes in the Sunshine State usually add an average 7.05%.

Arkansas

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When: Aug. 3-4

Arkansas offers two days free of sales taxes on clothing items priced under $100 and "clothing accessories" (including handbags, briefcases, wallets, umbrellas and jewelry) that cost less than $50.

Shoppers also pay no tax on school supplies or instructional materials, including text books and reference books. Consumers in Arkansas ordinarily pay an average 9.43% in sales taxes.

Before you plan your back-to-school shopping trip, make sure you've got the right credit card for your shopping habits.

Texas

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When: Aug. 9-11

Texas gives shoppers a three-day break from sales taxes on most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced at less than $100.

But the state draws the line at athletic shoes and protective gear that you wouldn't wear off the field — including golf cleats and football pads. That stuff is not tax-exempt.

The usual sales taxes paid in Texas add up to an average 8.19%.

Maryland

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When: Aug. 11-17

Maryland's tax-free period lasts an entire week and offers savings when you buy clothes or shoes that cost $100 or less.

Items exempted from the usual 6% sales tax statewide include diapers, costumes, martial arts clothing, pajamas, bathrobes, chef's uniforms, hunting vests and pants, and even antique clothing.

Buying a book bag or backpack in Maryland? The first $40 of that purchase is tax-free, too.

Massachusetts

QualityHD / Shutterstock
Shoppers in Peabody, Massachusetts, hit a J.C. Penney for back-to-school.

When: Aug. 17-18

The sales tax holiday in Massachusetts couldn't be simpler. For two days, you don't pay the state's 6.25% sales tax on most items that cost $2,500 or less.

Buying a, $800 smartphone? There's no tax. A $2,100 high-end refrigerator? No tax! The weekend deal saves Massachusetts consumers an estimated $20 million, according to media reports.

Several types of purchases don't qualify for the sales tax holiday, including cars, motorboats, restaurant meals, utilities, alcohol, tobacco products and marijuana.

Connecticut

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When: Aug. 18-24

Connecticut's back-to-school tax holiday is the last on the calendar — and it's also one of the longest.

The Federation of Tax Administrators says shoppers get a weeklong break from sales taxes on purchases of clothing or footwear priced at less than $100.

The normal sales tax in the Nutmeg State is 6.35%. If you live in Connecticut — or in or near any of these states, for that matter — you'll want to put the tax holiday on your smartphone calendar now.

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