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Tax holidays in 12 states this weekend

If you live in (or near) Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia and aren't already at your local mall, this reminder is for you.

Your state's back-to-school sales tax holiday started today.

Click on the Tax Foundation map image for a larger view. My Bankrate story on tax holidays also has an interactive map with participating state details.

Savvy sales tax holiday shoppers: I want to remind you of my sales tax holiday advice earlier in the week here on the ol' blog  -- as well as on WERC Radio in Birmingham, Ala. (be sure to adjust the volume with the speaker icon), and at print/online pubs, Tampa Bay Online and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- on how to maximize your tax-free shopping:

  1. Make a list of what you intend to buy.
  2. Check your state's tax holiday Web page -- links to each state's tax holiday info are in Wednesday's Weekly Tax Tip post on the 2012 August tax holidays -- to make sure that the items on your list are tax exempt.
  3. Note whether your local city or county is participating in the state tax holiday. Some states let localities opt out.
  4. Look at your state's tax holiday rules. There's a good chance that some things you might think are tax-exempt aren't. And pay attention to the rules, such as whether special shopping situations like layaway and online purchases are part of the event.
  5. Don't be tempted by impulse buys of items that are not tax free.

Visiting shoppers, beware your use tax: Finally, if you are one of those folks I mentioned who lives near, that is, just across the border from, a state holding a tax holiday, the hosting state's retailers will gladly welcome your out-of-town dollars.

But remember, if your state has a sales tax (and most do) you'll owe that amount to your own state tax department thanks to the correlating use tax.

As the name indicates, a use tax is a levy on items you bought outside your taxing jurisdiction but plan to use in your own state.

Sorry! I hate to be the shopping Grinch, but it's part of my job to remind your potential tax responsibilities, even if it's a tax that most folks ignore.

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