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Tax watch  Taxes across the nation

July 20, 2000 -- Because the federal income tax is the biggest and usually the first tax we see listed on our pay stubs, we naturally tend to focus on it.

But state government takes a bite out of our spending money, too. Bankrate will help you stay on top of what your localities are collecting -- income, sales, personal property or investment taxes, or often a combination of all.

Here's a look at some recent tax actions across the nation.

Pennsylvania high-tech shoppers get tax break
HARRISBURG -- High-tech consumers in the Keystone State will be out in force Aug. 6 to 13. That's when Pennsylvania holds the nation's first "Tax-Free PC" week. No sales tax -- state or local -- will be collected on personal computers and selected components bought then. The tax break applies to personal computers bought for home use from any Pennsylvania retail outlet, either in person, through the mail or over the Internet.

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The tax rebate is effective even if the computer is delivered after the tax holiday ends. The Pennsylvania break also applies to software, printers and other equipment purchased at the same time as the PC, and shipping and handling fees are tax free, too. More information on tax-free computer purchases can be found at Pennsylvania's Web site. A second sales tax break for computer purchases will be Feb. 18-25, 2001.

Texas expands back-to-school sales tax holiday
AUSTIN -- Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander has amended the state's upcoming sales tax holiday for school clothes to allow the exemption to also apply to clothing and shoes that are put on layaway.

Items of clothing bought Aug. 4-6 and costing less than $100 are exempt from Texas' 6.25 percent sales tax. The first weekend in August was chosen to coincide with the beginning of the school year, but the tax break is not limited to children's school clothes. Most clothing and footwear priced under $100 per item is exempt from sales tax, as are athletic clothes commonly used as street wear, like tennis shoes, baseball caps and jogging suits.

Not included in the sales tax holiday are accessories, such as jewelry and watches, and items that are carried rather than worn, including handbags, briefcases, wallets and backpacks.

Rylander said she hopes the layaway option, also capped at $100, will enable consumers with limited cash to take more advantage of the tax holiday.

In announcing the expanded sales tax break, Rylander added that she also will ask Texas lawmakers next year to include backpacks and fabric, buttons and zippers among the items qualifying for the exemption. Texas' first three-day sales tax holiday was last year, and state officials said shoppers saved more than $32 million in sales taxes on purchases of $400 million.

Florida shoppers get two sales tax-free weekends
TALLAHASSEE -- Sunshine State consumers get two sales tax-free weekends this summer: July 29 through Aug. 6.

During that period, anyone may purchase tax exempt clothing and footwear as long as the each item costs no more than $100. The tax holiday regulations define clothing as any article of apparel, including all footwear (except skis, swim fins, or in-line and other skates) intended to be worn. Accessories such as wallets, handbags, backpacks, fanny packs and diaper bags also are tax exempt. But briefcases, suitcases and other garment bags will still be taxed, as will watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs or sporting equipment.

In addition, the state will continue to collect taxes on items, even those which otherwise would be tax-free, that are sold within a theme park, hotel or airport.

There are no restrictions on the number of sales tax free items that may be purchased. A full list of tax-exempt items is available at the Florida Department of Revenue Web site.

-- Updated July 20, 2000


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