Tax free holiday weekend is here again

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2011

By David Colston

It’s hard to believe with the hot weather, but school will be starting back up for most people next week.

Children are bemoaning the last days of vacation. Teachers are already in their classroom organizing supplies, updating their materials, and redoing their walls. Parents are probably the most excited to see the start of school – it’s been a long summer by this time for them.

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The annual family ritual of shopping for back-to-school supplies is also gearing up.

This weekend is the sixth annual back-to-school sales tax holiday. The tax-exempt period runs from 12:01 a.m. on Friday to midnight Sunday. During this period, the state’s 4 percent sales tax is exempted on most school supplies and clothing.

This year, more than 270 local governments have also decided to participate, eliminating local taxes during the back-to-school event. It is the most local participation since the event began in 2006.

Most counties participate, except for financially troubled Jefferson County.

All kinds of clothing are exempt from sales tax. Everything from boots to hats, shirts to pants, and everything in between are tax free. Schools supplies like binders and notebooks, crayons and pencils, and other traditional items are tax-free. Of course books and art supplies are also on the no-tax list.

In this modern age, it is important to note that computers and iPads (under $750), along with computer supplies such as data storage devices, printers and their supplies like ink cartridges and paper, are also exempt. Notably, computer games of a non-education purpose are not exempt, disappointing kids and giving another reason for mom and dad to say no.

The tax holiday is the kind of no-nonsense legislation we used to see out of the Statehouse. It was a Democratic initiative to help working families. Back-to-school is second only to Christmas for the hit on the family budget. Kids all need new clothes, supplies, and even technology this time of year.

Providing a 4 percent break, along with encouraging local participation that brings the tax savings up to 10 percent in many places. It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to help parents trying to make ends meet while getting their kids off on the right foot.

The shaky state economy could also use the boost that the tax holiday will hopefully bring.

National estimates are that back-to-school shopping will remain flat from last year. However, Alabama retailers are more optimistic, noting that for the past year state sales tax revenue has risen an average of 2.5 percent. They hope the holiday will continue the strong retail growth.

Take advantage of the holiday. It is one more reminder that soon, our kids will be back in school and working on their futures.