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Classroom attendance may be delayed, but 11 back-to-school tax holidays start this weekend


Millions of youngsters across the United States will start this school year in virtual classrooms. But the tax savings are real in 11 states holding sales tax holidays this weekend.

Ten of the events kick off at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 7. Most run through the full weekend. One doesn't start until Sunday, Aug. 9, but continues through the following Saturday, Aug. 15.

Below are this weekend's back-to-school tax holidays listed alphabetically by participating states. The links, which include the state names, provide more details on what is and isn't tax-free.

Florida: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Tax-exempt items include clothing at $60 or less; school supplies priced at $15 or less; and computers and certain accessories selling for $1,000 or less.

Iowa: Friday, Aug. 7 through Saturday, Aug. 8. Clothing and footwear priced at less than $100 is tax-free.

Maryland: This week-long event starts Sunday, Aug. 9 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 15. Tax-free items include clothing and footwear priced at $100 or less. First $40 of a backpack sale price is tax-free.

Missouri: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Sales tax free items include clothing at $100 or less; school supplies at $50 or less; computer software sold at $350 or less; and personal computers and peripheral devices costing $1,500 or less.

New Mexico: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Items exempt from sales tax include clothing and footwear at $100 or less; computers sold for $1,000 or less; computer hardware at $500 or less; and school supplies priced at $30 or less.

Ohio: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Tax-exempt items include clothing priced at $75 or less and school instructional materials and school supplies at $20 or less.

Oklahoma: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Tax-exempt items include clothing and footwear with a price tag of $100 or less.

South Carolina: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Palmetto States get one of the most generous tax holidays with tax waived and no purchase price limit on clothing accessories and footwear; school supplies; computers, computer software and printers and printer supplies; and bed linens and bath furnishings. 

Tennessee: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug 9. Yes, the Volunteer State did hold its back-to-school tax holiday last weekend. However, lawmakers approved a second one this year to help some specific businesses hard hit by coronavirus closures. This weekend there won't be any sales tax applied to the retail sale of food and drink by restaurants and limited service restaurants.

Texas: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Tax-exempt items include clothing, footwear, backpacks priced at less than $100, as well as other general school supplies at less than $100.

Virginia: Friday, Aug. 7 through Sunday, Aug. 9. Old Dominion shoppers get to go beyond the usual classroom needs. This weekend tax-exempt items include clothing and footwear prices at $100 or less; school supplies of $20 or less; and Energy Star and WaterSense conservation appliances sold for $2,500 or less.

General tax holiday tips: By now, shoppers (and long-time readers of the ol' blog) know that you need to take care when buying during a state's sales tax holiday.

Note the days the event is being held. Some are shorter — looking at you, Iowa — or longer — my old Maryland stomping grounds — than what you might think.

Review the lists of items that do and do not qualify for the tax savings. They can be somewhat confusing. For example, here in my native Texas, belts are OK but if you want to buy a replacement buckle for a belt you already own, that buckle is taxable.

In most cases, lay-a-way and online purchases also qualify for the tax savings as long as you make or complete the purchase during the days of the actual tax holiday. Or start the process then. Again, read your state's guidelines so that you don't buy something you didn't intend to or lose out on tax savings.

Then make a list of what's on tax-free sale and then buy only those items.

These shopping tips are among the six that I discuss in my earlier post on ways to maximize your sales tax holiday savings.

COVID-19 purchase precautions: And speaking of online buying during tax holidays, that purchase option is likely to get more takers this year.

The coronavirus threat that has placed the start of in-real-school-building classes in limbo (or already canceled) also makes rubbing elbows with other shoppers questionable. If you do decide to go to stores, please follow your state, local and retailer health guidelines to keep yourself, other shoppers and employees safe.

Some stores are offering online or phone orders of tax holiday eligible items that then will be delivered or that you can pick up curbside. Check with your local retailers if you really, really want that computer or your youngster must have that special sweater but you don't want to mingle, even masked, in a store.

And if you're state isn't one holding or at least starting its sales tax holiday this coming weekend, check out the full list of 16 states that have or will hold such back-to-school tax-free events this summer. A couple more — Connecticut and Massachusetts — are still ahead.

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