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16 states plan to hold back-to-school sales tax holidays this summer despite COVID-19 concerns

UPDATED, July 31, 2020: This post was published originally on July 8 in advance of the 2020 state sales tax holiday season. As the holidays come and go, I'll change the headline to reflect the upcoming events. I'll also color code the table showing all 16 sales tax holidays planned for this summer so you can easily see which have past and which are on the immediate horizon. Coming up at the end of July/first of August are tax holidays in Mississippi and Tennessee.

Children-teacher-in-classroom-4019754_Photo by Arthur Krijgsman from Pexels
If and when schools reopen, classrooms likely will look much different from this due to COVID-19 precautions. But some states are hoping their annual back-to-school sales tax holidays that begin this month will help make things at least seem normal. (Photo by Arthur Krijgsman via Pexels)

The Trump Administration is pushing for schools to open this fall. Supporters of the move say that having youngsters, from Kindergarten age through high school, return to their usual brick-and-mortar classrooms is critical to getting back to normal.

Back to normal, or whatever that will be for the foreseeable future, also is key to keeping the economy moving. With kids in classrooms, more parents can return to jobs. Jobs mean money to be spent on businesses that have reopened after COVID-19 closures.

Some states also plan to contribute to this normalizing. Their back-to-school sales tax holidays are still on the calendar, at least for now.

This summer, 16 states still plan to hold such no-tax shopping periods.

Tax savings, but other costs: These events, which last from a couple of days to a week in some places, waive state and often local sales taxes on certain items.

Supporters of the tax holidays say it encourages spending. Opponents say that it simply shifts the purchasing dates.

And many in the tax world say these no-tax events are just plain bad tax policy.

This year, there also are the obvious potential health costs, not to mention the political currency that's being spent in a presidential election year.

Still, consumers and the politicians they elect love tax holidays. So they continue, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

Shop and save online: As for shopping while we're still coping with an infectious disease, one good thing about many of the state sales tax holidays is that the tax break also applies to online purchases.

In fact, during Texas' and Missouri's tax-free shopping days in April, state officials and retailers urged customers to take their tax savings by buying online and having the products delivered or pick them up curbside at the stores.

Expect similar COVID-19 shopping precautions for the 16 late summer sales tax holidays on the horizon.

Participating states: Three states kick off the summer tax-free shopping season this month.

Alabama's tax-free event is first, the weekend of July 17-19.

Two other southern states also have sales tax holidays that start at the end of July:

  • Mississippi's is July 31 through Aug. 1.
  • Tennessee is holding two weekend tax holidays this year. The Volunteer State's first one on July 31 through Aug. 2 offers tax savings on clothing and other back-to-school items. The second tax-free weekend, Aug. 7-9, applies to restaurant sales.

The remaining 13 states' sales tax holidays are in August, with the bulk of them set for all or part of that month's first weekend. They are shown alphabetically in the table below, with the links (red text) providing additional details about the tax-saving events.

As the tax holidays near and then pass, I'll annotate the table using colors that I hope will help you find upcoming events more quickly. States where the holiday has passed are grayed-out. States where the holiday is underway or coming up soon are in green.

2020 State Sales Taxes Holidays

State & Sales Tax Rate
Local taxes also may be waived

Holiday Days
& Dates

Tax-Free Products
& Per-Item Price Limits

Alabama 4%

Friday, July 17
through
Sunday, July 19

Clothing priced at $100 or less Books priced at $30 or less 
School supplies at $50 or less
Computers & software
priced at $750 or less

Arkansas 6.5%

Saturday, Aug. 1
through
Sunday, Aug. 2

Clothing $100 or less
Apparel accessories $50 or less
No dollar limit on instructional materials or school art supplies

Connecticut 6.35%

Sunday, Aug. 16
through
Saturday, Aug. 22

Clothing & footwear
priced at $100 or less

Florida 6%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Sunday, Aug. 9

Clothing at $60 or less
School supplies $15 or less
Computers, certain accessories selling for $1,000 or less

Iowa 6%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Saturday, Aug. 8 

Clothing & footwear
priced at less than $100

Maryland 6%

Sunday, Aug. 9
through
Saturday, Aug. 15

Clothing & footwear
priced at $100 or less
First $40 of a backpack sale price is tax-free 

Massachusetts 6.25%

Saturday, Aug. 29
through
Sunday, Aug. 30

Almost every personal item
priced at $2,500 or less

Mississippi 7%

Friday, July 31
through
Saturday, Aug. 1

Clothing, footwear $100 or less

Missouri 4.225%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Sunday, Aug. 9 

Clothing at $100 or less
School supplies $50 or less
Computer software $350 or less
Personal computers & peripheral devices costing $1,500 or less

New Mexico 5.125%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Sunday, Aug. 9

Clothing or shoes $100 or less
Computers $1,000 or less
Computer hardware $500 or less School supplies $30 or less

Ohio 5.75%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Sunday, Aug. 9

Clothing priced at $75 or less
School instructional materials
& school supplies at $20 or less

Oklahoma 4.5%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Sunday, Aug. 9

Clothing, footwear $100 or less

South Carolina 6%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Sunday, Aug. 9

No purchase price limit
on clothing accessories & footwear; school suppliescomputers, printers & printer supplies, computer software; & bed linens & bath furnishings

Tennessee 7%

Friday, July 31 
through 
Sunday, Aug. 2 

Clothing $100 or less
School supplies $100 or less
Computers $1,500 or less

Tennessee 7%

Friday, Aug. 7 
through 
Sunday, Aug. 9

Retail sale of food and drink by restaurants and limited service restaurants

Texas 6.25%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Sunday, Aug. 9

Clothing, footwear, backpacks
priced at less than $100
School supplies at less than $100

Virginia 4.3%

Friday, Aug. 7
through
Sunday, Aug. 9

Clothing & footwear $100 or less
School supplies $20 or less
Energy Star & WaterSense products $2,500 or less
Hurricane preparedness items
priced from $60 to $1,000 or less


Double check dates, shop safely: You probably noticed that a few of the links in the table go to pages about 2019's tax-free events. But since the tax holidays are set by state law, prior year tax guidelines still apply.

State officials tend to provide annual updates as the sales tax holidays near with the correct dates and any changes, especially in locales where more local taxing entities also are involved. Those updates should be done automatically at state websites. I'll also keep an eye on them and update manually if that doesn't happen.

And if your state is having a tax-free shopping holiday that I missed, let me know, with an official link please, and I'll add it.

Mark your calendars, make your shopping lists and, most importantly, be careful out there. You don't want to end up having to spend your tax savings on doctors' bills!

Better yet, shop online!

You also might find these items of interest:

 

Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we're focusing on just getting through these trying days.

But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here's hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.

 

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