Tax-free weekend shopping

Tax-free Memorial Day shopping for some

Ah, Memorial Day. A time to remember those who died in the service of our country. The beginning of summer. A three-day holiday. Tax savings at the mall.

You read right. This year three states are kicking off the summer by holding Memorial Day sales-tax-free holidays.

These events allow you to save a little by not paying sales tax on certain items and are typically scheduled for August when they're pegged to back-to-school sales.

Don't worry. Those fall dates are safe. If your state has a tax-free event this weekend, it will hold another one in a few months. We're pulling together all that data and will publish a consolidated sales tax holiday story in a couple of weeks, so keep checking.

But for this holiday weekend (and beyond), here are the places you save if you're in the market for specific products.

Texas: The Lone Star State is holding an early tax holiday to supplement its regular back-to-school event in August. While the fall event offers tax savings on clothing and other consumer items, this weekend is being touted as the 2008 Energy Star sales tax holiday.

It begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 24, and runs through 11:59 p.m. Memorial Day, Monday, May 26. During this time, Texas shoppers won't have to pay the state's 6.25 percent sales tax or associated local levies (which pushes us to 8.25 percent here in Austin) on certain energy-saving appliances.

Eligible purchases include just about anything that bears an Energy Star sticker, such as air conditioners (room and central units that are priced under $6,000), washing machines, refrigerators, ceiling fans and dishwashers. Even some light bulbs qualify.

The state has a Web page with details on tax-exempt products and special situations such as Internet and lay-away sales.

Louisiana: The Pelican State is still recovering from Katrina and Rita and it wants to make sure that its residents are prepared for any future hurricanes. So this Memorial Day weekend, Louisiana is waiving its sales tax on purchases of hurricane supplies.

On May 24 and May 25, hurricane preparedness items worth up to $1,500 each are tax-free. This includes generators, portable lights, radios, cell phone batteries and chargers, nonelectric food coolers and "storm shutter devices."

This is Louisiana's first hurricane preparedness tax holiday, but it won't be the last. The law creating it calls for the event to be held annually on the last Saturday and Sunday of every May.

The state has put out a two-page document with the holiday details, as well as created a special flier about the event.

Virginia: Virginia is taking the better-safe-than-sorry route, too. Shoppers in the Old Dominion will have a week to stock up, tax-free, on hurricane and other emergency preparedness items.

From Sunday, May 25, through Saturday, May 31, purchases of certain supplies, such as portable generators costing $1,000 or less and a wide range other eligible items priced at $60 or less will be tax-exempt.

The state has issued a list of eligible items, as well as created a frequently asked questions Web page.

No Florida tax breaks: By now, Sunshine State residents are probably wondering about their hurricane tax holiday. Sorry Floridians, your state officials decided that such an early summer event was just too expensive.

Tax officials say eliminating the 2008 hurricane holiday, which had been held for three years following the devastating 2004 storm season, will save the state $12 million. Not a lot against a $3 billion budget shortfall, but you have to start somewhere.

Now about your fall event. You'll still get your back-to-school tax-free-shopping holiday, but it will be a week instead of 10 days. And books will no longer be on the tax-exempt list.

You now can commence with your own wisecracks about books and the Florida education system.


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