SAVVY SHOPPER

Take advantage of sales-tax holidays and tax-free days

State sales tax breaks cover clothes and other items

Published: August 07, 2015 06:00 AM

This weekend—starting today—12 states are offering shoppers incentives to leave their backyards, beaches, and swimming pools. They're putting on sales-tax holidays, eliminating state sales tax on certain items—typically, clothing and footwear; computers; and school supplies.

In Iowa and Louisiana, sales-tax holidays are available August 7 and 8. In Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, the tax-free weekend goes through Sunday. The "weekend" in Florida actually extends through Friday, August 16. In Connecticut, the fun begins on August 16 and goes through August 22.

Check out Consumer Reports' back-to-school shopping guide.

You can't go hog-wild on purchases during sales-tax holidays and expect to reap a tax break. All the states have limits on how much you can spend on an item and save on taxes. But some of the discounts are quite generous. Louisiana's tax break saves shoppers its 4 percent sales tax on all items of $2,500 or less, with the exception of vehicles, meals, and various services. Missouri eliminates the 4.225 percent state tax on up to $3,500 spent on personal computers and peripherals. Alabama offers a computer and software tax break of up to $750. Virginia joins the other states in offering a tax break on school supplies and clothing, and also cuts the tax for Energy Star products of up to $2,500; generators of up to $1,000, and hurricane-preparedness items of up to $60. 

A couple of states already have had their sales-tax holidays. Louisiana and Mississippi offer additional tax-free weekends from September 4 through September 6 for firearms, ammunition, and hunting supplies.

You can find a complete list of state tax-free weekends and sales-tax holidays here. To get more details on what's eligible, go to your state's tax administration or department of revenue site

The sales tax break is good on items you buy online as well, as long as you do it within the designated period. Keep in mind that you still may have to pay local sales tax if the municipality or county you're shopping in doesn't adhere to the state tax weekend or holiday.

—Tobie Stanger @TobieStanger on Twitter

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