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Sales tax holidays on tap

By Kay Bell · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Posted: 12 pm ET

If you plan to spend the Memorial Day weekend hitting holiday sales, then you're in for some added savings if you live in Louisiana, Texas or Virginia.

These three states are holding sales tax holidays this month.

The Louisiana event, which runs May 28 and May 29, is designed to help folks get ready for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

The first $1,500 of the sales price is tax free for such items as flashlights and candles, various radios, tarpaulins and tie-down kits, gas or diesel fuel tanks, batteries (including those for cell phones), food storage coolers and portable generators.

Storm shutters also are free of state sales tax this weekend. But actually, Louisiana has a year-round tax exemption on "storm shutters devices," defined as materials and products manufactured, rated, and marketed specifically for the purposes of preventing window damage from storms.

But the Pelican State's holiday doesn't automatically mean a tax holiday from local sales taxes. Each jurisdiction can decide whether it wants to participate in the tax holiday.

A similar hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday will kick off a bit sooner in Virginia.

Starting May 25 and running through May 31, Old Dominion shoppers won't have to pay state sales tax on a wide variety of storm prep products that are priced at $60 or less. This includes flashlights and other portable lighting devices, batteries, tarps, radios, food storage containers, bottled water, first-aid kits and storm shutters.

Portable generators also are tax exempt as long as they cost $1,000 or less.

In Texas, shoppers get a three-day tax holiday -- May 28 through May 30 -- on the purchase of certain energy efficient products.

This includes air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less; refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less; ceiling fans; incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs; clothes washers; dishwashers; dehumidifiers and programmable thermostats.

Local sales taxes on these products bought in the Lone Star State also are waived for the holiday weekend.

Now there's always a debate as to whether sales tax holidays are good tax policy. I don't think they are. They're short-term bribes to get people spending money in the hopes that they'll also pick up a few taxable items.

But it appears that the tax holidays are here to stay. So if you live in Louisiana, Texas or Virginia, make your list and take advantage of some tax-free shopping.

South Carolina blinks: Earlier this month I lauded South Carolina for standing up to Amazon. Palmetto State legislators had then rejected a proposal to give the giant online retailer a special sales tax exemption.

Amazon subsequently pulled the plug on a planned distribution center in South Carolina.

But the tax break is back. After Amazon agreed to increase its capital investment in the project (from $90 million to $125 million) and add 751 more jobs, lawmakers gave approval on the tax exemption through 2015.

Just thought you'd want to know what the going price is for tax breaks in South Carolina.

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