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Texas, Louisiana and Virginia hold Memorial Day sales tax holidays this weekend (and beyond)

I just got back from the grocery store. That's the extent of my Memorial Day three-day weekend shopping.

But if you plan to purchase something other than tortilla chips, lemonade, roasted cashews, microwave popcorn, avocados and onion/horseradish dip (I bought more, but I just picked a few of my favorite snacks) and you live in Texas, Virginia or Louisiana, you could save some tax dollars.

Those three states are holding sales tax holidays starting Saturday, May 25. In each location, certain items will be free of state and, in some cases, local sales taxes.

Here's a quick rundown of the upcoming tax holidays' when and what.

Texas, May 25-27
Here in the Lone Star State, shoppers in the market for energy efficient appliances will, in many cases, be able to avoid the state's 6.25 percent sales taxes and local add-ons that could bring the total tax to 8 percent.

The sales tax break applies to Energy Star qualified air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less and refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less. Also qualifying without any price restrictions are ceiling fans, incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs, dishwashers, dehumidifiers and clothes washers.

Unfortunately, Energy Star ratings are not applied to clothes dryers because most machines use roughly the same amount of energy. So my energy and environmentally conscious neighbors will have to stick with the solar powered dryer pictured below.

Solar clothes dryer photo by Shira Golding via Flickr CC
Solar clothes dryer by Shira Golding via Flickr CC

Programmable thermostats also make the Texas tax-free list but only under certain circumstances. Energy Star quit rating these items in 2010, but is a retailer has any previously qualified thermostats in stock, then you can pick up one tax-free.

Personally, I'd be a little leery of a two-and-a-half-year-old device, especially with the rate technology improvements are made. But if you find a dusty old box containing an Energy Star programmable thermostat and want to save a few dollars, go for it.

The Texas Comptroller's office has a special Web page with sales tax holiday details on related issues, such as Internet and catalog sales, layaway plans, delivery charges and installation charges, as well as an online collection of FAQs.

Louisiana, May 25-26
Just to the east of Texas, shoppers in Louisiana will be able to get ready for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

Louisiana hurricane sales tax holiday 2013
Click image to view Louisiana's 2013 Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday video.

Yes, folks are cleaning up after deadly twisters and in just a few days, June 1 to be exact, the time for tracking potentially dangerous tropical systems begins. But the Oklahoma tornadoes should encourage all coastal residents, not just those who are getting tax breaks, to prepare for the natural disasters that threaten their regions.

Louisiana residents on Saturday and Sunday won't have to pay the state's 4 percent sales tax on the first $1,500 of the purchase price of each selected hurricane supply.

Realistically, that price limit will probably only apply to portable generators and what Pelican State officials are calling storm shutter devices. These are, says the Louisiana Department of Revenue, "materials and products manufactured, rated, and marketed specifically for the purposes of preventing window damage from storms."

Other less-expensive tax-free hurricane supplies are:

  • portable self-powered light source (aka flashlights and lanterns);
  • portable self-powered radio, two-way radio, or weather band radio;
  • tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting;
  • any ground anchor system or tie-down kit;
  • any gas or diesel fuel tank;
  • any package of AAA-cell, AA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt, or 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile and boat batteries;
  • any cellular phone battery and any cellular phone charger;
  • any non-electric food storage cooler;
  • any carbon monoxide detector; and
  • any Blue Ice and similar reusable cooling products.

You can get more information on Louisiana event at the state's special Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday page.

Virginia: May 25-31
The Old Dominion is holding the longest May tax holiday. It starts Saturday, May 25, and runs through Friday, May 31.

Virginia's week-long event also provides tax-free treatment of hurricane-related supplies.

Virginia hurricane sales tax holiday 2013

The state's 5 percent sales tax (4 percent goes to Virginia, 1 percent to local tax jurisdictions) is waived for portable generators and generator power cords and inverters and inverter power cables that cost $1,000 or less.

Other hurricane supplies that cost $60 or less also are tax-free, including artificial and reusable ice, batteries, flashlights, portable radios, tarps and other waterproof sheeting, storm shutter devices, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, water storage containers, bottled water and first-aid kits.

The state has a list of qualifying tax-free storm items that contains more details, as well an online page of frequently asked tax-holiday questions.

If you live in Texas, Louisiana or Virginia, make your tax-holiday shopping lists. I hope you are better at following it than I am with my grocery list!

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