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Texas' international tax-free shopping event kicks off final five August sales tax holidays

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The bridge connecting El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico, is one of several international exchange points expecting increased traffic this weekend as Mexican shoppers visit to take advantage of Lone Star State tax holiday savings. (Photo by Nils Huenerfuerst on Unsplash)

The final five summer sales tax holidays are upon us, with Texas kicking things off this weekend. And it's going to be an international affair.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials expect a higher volume of crossings into the Lone Star State starting tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 11. That's the first day of Texas' three-day back-to-school tax holiday.

If past events are any indication, border agents will see more Mexican shoppers than usual, as they also look to take advantage of the tax savings available through Sunday, Aug. 13.

Increased Mexico-to-Texas crossings: The federal border agents say they will work to manage the traffic flow, while also enforcing border security.

"Shoppers from Mexico tend to flock to South Texas retail stores during this tax-free weekend so plan accordingly," said acting CBP Director of Field Operations Eugene Crawford, of the Laredo Field Office.

He added that his officers will monitor traffic, and open additional lanes as necessary, but advises the traveling public to be patient and build more time into their border-area travel plans this weekend.

Border commuters can monitor border wait times, which are updated hourly, at CBP's special Border Wait Times (BWT) web page.

CBP Border Wait Times web page screenshot

The information is also available via the BWT smartphone app, via the Apple app store and Google Play. Wait times are updated hourly.

Five state tax holidays remain: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are joining Texas in holding sales tax holidays during the last half of August.

Here are the dates of these five tax-free events, listed chronologically, along with the tax-exempt items.

Texas — Friday, Aug. 11 through Sunday, Aug. 13. Tax-free products include clothing, footwear, backpacks, and school supplies priced at less than $100.

Massachusetts — Saturday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 13. Almost every personal item priced at $2,500 or less is tax-free during these two days.

Maryland — Sunday, Aug. 13 through Saturday, Aug. 19. Tax-free products include certain clothing, footwear, and accessories priced at $100 or less. The first $40 of a backpack/bookbag purchase is also tax-exempt.

Connecticut — Sunday, Aug. 20 through Saturday, Aug. 26. Tax-free products include clothing and footwear costing $100 or less.

New Jersey — Saturday, Aug. 26 through Monday, Sept. 4. Tax-free products include computers costing less than $3,000 and school computer supplies costing less than $1,000. Other school supplies, school art supplies, school instructional materials, and sport or recreational equipment are also tax-free without any price limit.

Popular, but bad tax policy: Seventeen states authorized so-called back-to-school sales tax holidays in 2023. That's two fewer than the year before.

However, one thing hasn't decreased. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) says that sales tax holidays this year will cost states and localities nearly $1.6 billion in lost revenue, up from an estimated $1 billion a year ago.

These temporary tax exemptions, says ITEP (and other tax policy groups), are "poorly targeted and too temporary to meaningfully change the regressive nature of a state's tax system. These tax holidays might be politically popular, but ultimately, they're ineffective gimmicks with minimal benefits and significant downsides."

But the attitude of lawmakers apparently is lost tax cash be damned. Shopper, also known as voters, love tax holidays, so they tend to stay on the books until states face dire budget issues.

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