Fifteen states are offering shoppers back-to-school sales-tax holidays this year. The participating jurisdictions are listed below alphabetically.

Most of the tax-exempt shopping sessions fall in early August. But be sure to carefully schedule your shopping trip or you could miss out on the savings. Georgia’s event starts on a Thursday instead of the usual Friday; Connecticut and Texas shoppers have to wait until later in the month for their tax bargains. And some of the holidays come up a bit short, such as the events in Iowa and Louisiana that end at midnight Saturday instead of running through the end of the weekend.

Also, do your homework before you shop. Some items you give the clerk to ring up might not save you any sales-tax dollars. And the tax-free or still-taxable designations aren’t always logical.

Participating states have detailed and sometimes seemingly contradictory lists of sales-tax-exempt items and those on which stores will still tally tax. Check them out before hitting the mall.

Alabama

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 9
  • General exempt items: During the first weekend of each August, Alabama shoppers will be spared paying state sales tax on clothing costing less than $100, as well as on school supplies selling for up to $50 each and books that cost up to $30. Computers and software are also tax-exempt as long as their costs do not exceed $750.
  • Notable exceptions: While the state sales tax will not be collected this weekend, cities and counties have the choice to opt out of the holiday. The state has compiled a table showing which local jurisdictions are participating.

More information is available on Alabama’s sales-tax holiday Web site.

Connecticut

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 16 to Aug. 22
  • General exempt items: Clothing and footwear costing less than $300 per item are free from sales and use taxes during this week. Layaway purchases also qualify, as long as the customer puts the qualifying clothing or footwear on layaway during the tax-exclusion week; none of the subsequent payments, even if made after the sales tax holiday ends, are taxable. Rented clothing, such as formal wear, also is exempt, as long as it does not exceed $300 and the customer takes possession of the clothing during the tax holiday week.
  • Notable exceptions: Be careful when time-shifting purchases. If you place a tax-exempt article on layaway during the tax holiday week, none of your payments on the item are taxable even if they are made after the holiday ends. But if you get a rain check for a tax-exempt eligible item that is unavailable during the holiday week and you redeem it after the tax holiday ends, the item is taxable.

More information is available on Connecticut’s sales-tax holiday Web site.

Georgia

  • Tax holiday dates: July 30 to Aug. 2
  • General exempt items: Peach State shoppers get a bit of a head start with the state’s sales-tax holiday starting on a Thursday, and it applies to a wide variety of purchases. During the event, state sales tax will not be collected on clothing and footwear selling for $100 or less; a single purchase of $1,500 or less of personal computers and/or related accessories; and general school supplies with a sales price of $20 or less per item. The state will hold a second sales tax holiday Oct. 1 to Oct. 4 for specific energy- and water-efficient products. Tax officials provide details on that holiday on the Department of Revenue Web site as that holiday nears.
  • Notable exceptions: Clothing accessories (handbags, jewelry, etc.) are not tax-free. As for computers, if the single purchase exceeds $1,500, then the entire transaction is taxable. The sales-tax exemptions do not apply to items sold at theme parks, entertainment complexes, hotels, restaurants and airports.

More information is available at Georgia’s sales tax holiday Web page.

Iowa

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 8
  • General exempt items: During the first Friday and Saturday of each August in the Hawkeye State, no tax (including school and local option sales levies) will be collected on clothing or footwear items costing less than $100. The tax break is available for each eligible article, regardless of how many items are sold on the same invoice to the same customer. Local option taxes also are not collected during these two days.
  • Notable exceptions: The holiday does not extend into Sunday. All items priced at $100 or more remain taxable. Also check the exempt list carefully. Belts without buckles attached are still taxed during the two holiday days, but if you buy a belt with a buckle on it, the item is tax-free.

More information is available on Iowa’s sales-tax holiday Web site.

Louisiana

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 8
  • General exempt items: Pelican State shoppers will not have to pay sales tax on most items purchased for personal use that do not exceed $2,500 each. If a product costs more than the exemption limit, sales tax will be collected on the amount over $2,500.
  • Notable exceptions: Sales tax will continue to be collected on vehicles and restaurant meals, including to-go orders. Also, the holiday does not apply to sales taxes levied by parishes, municipalities, school boards and other state political subdivisions.

More information is available on Louisiana’s sales-tax holiday Web site and notice of 2009 dates and special retailer information.

Mississippi

  • Tax holiday dates: July 31 to Aug. 1
  • General exempt items: The Magnolia State holds its first-ever sales tax holiday this year, offering shoppers two days in which they don’t have to pay state or city sales taxes on items of clothing and footwear priced at less than $100.
  • Notable exceptions: Accessories, including jewelry, handbags, luggage, umbrellas, wallets, watches, backpacks, briefcases and similar items will still be taxed.

More information will be available in Mississippi’s brochure for consumers and its guidelines for retailers.

Missouri

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 9
  • General exempt items: Missouri will show shoppers a state sales-tax break on clothing and footwear items worth $100 or less; school supplies priced at $50 or less; personal computers bought for $3,500 or less; computer peripheral equipment also priced at $3,500 or less; and software costing $350 or less.
  • Notable exceptions: Many of the state’s cities, counties and other taxing districts will continue to collect local sales-tax levies. In nonparticipating jurisdictions, only Missouri’s 4.225 percent state sales tax will be excluded from eligible sales during that weekend.

More information is available on Missouri’s sales-tax holiday Web site.

New Mexico

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 9
  • General exempt items: Shoppers will find this state even more enchanting this weekend, when clothing, shoes, computers and associated peripherals and school supplies are sales-tax exempt. Eligible clothing must cost less than $100, computers less than $1,000 and peripherals less than $500. School supplies also are tax-exempt as long as they cost no more than $15 and are items that “students normally use in a standard classroom for educational purposes.” Among the items specified are notebooks, paper, writing instruments and crayons.
  • Notable exceptions: The tax holiday law specifically excludes watches, radios, compact disc players, headphones, sporting equipment, portable desktop telephones, copiers, office equipment, furniture or fixtures. These items, say lawmakers, are not considered to be school supplies that students normally use in a standard classroom.

More information is available in New Mexico’s sales-tax guidelines and its list of taxable and nontaxable items.

North Carolina

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 9
  • General exempt items: North Carolina’s state tax will not be collected on clothing, footwear and students’ school supplies costing $100 or less per item; school instructional materials of $300 or less per item; sports and recreation equipment priced at $50 or less per item; computers of $3,500 or less per item; and computer supplies of $250 or less. The Tar Heel State will hold a second sales-tax holiday Nov. 6 to Nov. 8 for Energy Star qualified products.
  • Notable exceptions: Some people view sewing or knitting as recreational. The hobby usually produces clothing. But the state specifically says that fabric, thread, yarn and “other such items purchased to make clothing” remain taxable this weekend.

More information is available on North Carolina’s sales-tax holiday Web page.

Oklahoma

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 9
  • General exempt items: The Sooner State’s tax will not be collected on clothing and footwear costing $100 or less per item. Retailers are required to participate. In addition to the state sales tax, eligible items also are free of local taxes this weekend.
  • Notable exceptions: The total price of items in a buy one, get one free promotion cannot be averaged to qualify both items as tax free. The exemption depends on the actual price paid for each item.

More information is available on Oklahoma’s sales-tax holiday Web page.

South Carolina

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 9
  • General exempt items: South Carolina’s 8 percent sales tax and any local sales and use tax will not be collected this weekend on clothing, clothing accessories, footwear, school supplies, computers, printers, printer supplies and computer software. Many bath and bed linen products also are tax-free during this period. The Palmetto State also will hold its Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, during which time no tax will be collected on purchases of handguns, rifles and shotguns.
  • Notable exceptions: While the August tax holiday law exempts computers, computer peripherals are taxable; the sale of a computer monitor, keyboard or scanner by itself would not be exempt during the sales tax holiday. Any such computer product must be part of a package included with the computer processing unit in order to be tax-exempt.

More information is available on South Carolina’s sales tax holiday Web site.

Tennessee

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 9
  • General exempt items: During the first weekend of each August, shoppers won’t have to volunteer any taxes on clothing with a price of $100 or less per item; school supplies selling for $100 or less per item; and computers for personal use, not business, with a price of $1,500 or less. Art supplies for school work (clay, glazes, paint, paintbrushes, sketch pads, etc.) also are tax-exempt as long as they meet the $100 limit.
  • Notable exceptions: While a purchase of a computer, laptop or PC that meets the price limit is tax-exempt, the various components must be bundled to be tax-free. Software beyond what is preloaded as part of the computer package is taxable, as are printers and printer supplies.

More information is available on Tennessee’s sales-tax holiday Web site.

Texas

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 21 to Aug. 23
  • General exempt items: Most clothing and footwear priced less than $100 will be tax-exempt this weekend. The break applies to items individually, not a shopper’s total purchase amount. That means a customer escapes the state’s combined local and state sales tax, which could be as high as 8.25 percent, on each of a dozen shirts each priced at $99.99. But the full tax is due on a shirt that sells for $100. And new this year, Lone Star State shoppers will get a sales tax break on most school supplies purchased for use by elementary or secondary school students as long as the items cost less than $100.
  • Notable exceptions: Despite the sports fanaticism of Lone Star State residents, only football and baseball jerseys are tax-exempt. Other associated items (pads, helmets, mitts, cleats, etc.) remain taxable, as do most other clothing and footwear used primarily for athletic activities or protection. Accessories such as jewelry, watches and handbags also are excluded from the sales-tax holiday.

More information is available on the Texas’ sales-tax holiday Web site.

Virginia

  • Tax holiday dates: Aug. 7 to Aug. 9
  • General exempt items: Shoppers in the Old Dominion State will get a break on school supplies that cost $20 or less per item and on clothing and shoes priced at $100 or less per item. Internet purchases also will be tax-exempt if the item is delivered and paid for during the exemption period or the customer orders and pays for the item and the seller accepts the order during the holiday period for immediate shipment, even if delivery is made after the tax holiday. The state will hold a second sales-tax holiday Oct. 9 to Oct. 12 for energy-efficient products priced at $2,500 or less.
  • Notable exceptions: Sport and recreational equipment is not tax-exempt. Neither are apparel accessories such as handbags, briefcases and jewelry. Businesses may choose to pay the tax on nonexempt items for their customers and advertise those items as tax-free.

More information is available on Virginia’s sales-tax holiday Web site.

West Virginia

  • Tax holiday dates: Sept. 1 to Nov. 30
  • General exempt items: This year the sales tax holiday for Mountain State shoppers is bigger than ever. The event isn’t tied to back-to-school supplies. Rather, the state is waiving its 6 percent sales tax on certain Energy Star qualified products and shoppers now have three months to buy the tax-free upgrades. The energy-efficient appliances must cost $5,000 or less and be for home, not commercial, use.
  • Notable exceptions: Shipping and handling charges separately stated on the appliance bill or purchase invoice are taxable. However, those added charges do not count toward the $5,000 maximum item cost.

More information is available on West Virginia’s sales-tax holiday Web site.

Are sales-tax holidays a good idea? See “Sales tax holidays offer shopping bargains” for a look at the pros and cons of these temporary tax exemptions.

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