Tax-free weekends for back-to-school can help you save.
Attention all parents and students who are looking to save—the back-to-school tax-free weekends are on now or coming this weekend in most states. Tax-free weekends offer an easy way to save by eliminating sales tax on certain popular items typically purchased during the back-to-school shopping season. Check out our interactive map to see if your state is going tax-free soon and to see what items are eligible.
What is a tax-free weekend?
A tax-free weekend or tax-free week is a period where a state that typically has sales tax waives it on certain purchases. In most states that have a tad-free period, items are only tax-free up to a certain dollar amount. This means that a single item must fall below a certain value to qualify.
There are also usually exclusions. For instance, a common exclusion is on sports equipment and protective gear. Some states, such as Alabama and Missouri also allow counties and municipalities to opt out of participating. Thus, you may have to drive a little in these states to take advantage, depending on where you live.
Shopping during a tax-free weekend means you save the money you would have spent on sales tax. in 2021, eighteen states have will have a tax-free weekend or week for back-to-school shopping.
5 states are tax-free year-round
If you live in one of these five states, you don’t pay sales tax regardless of what time of year it is. Thus, they have no tax-free weekend or week.
- New Hampshire
In Oregon, New Hampshire, and Delaware, tax-free means no sales tax at all, including local taxes. However, in Montana and Alaska, local sales tax is still allowable. So, you may pay minimal local sales tax in some counties and muncipalities.
What is included in tax-free weekend?
Most states limit the products that are exempt from sales tax during these weekends. In most cases, you can only buy clothing, shoes, accessories, and electronics for school tax-free. There’s also usually a dollar limit on a single item, unless you live in South Carolina where there’s no limit on price. This table shows a typical breakdown of spending limits on back to school purchases:
|Clothing||Up to $100 per item|
|Shoes||Up to $100 per item|
|School supplies||Up to $20-50 per item|
|Computers||Up to $500-$1,000|
Again, these limits vary by state, so click on your state on the map to see the limits in your state. You can also click the source link in your state’s map for more information from your state. You can also visit your state’s Department of Revenue or Comptroller website for detailed information.
Shop strategically on your tax-free weekend
There’s a good reason to take advantage of no sales tax if your state offers it. The back-to-school shopping season is the second most expensive time of year for families with kids attending school. The consumer experts at the National Retail Federation say K-12 parents can expect to spend an average of $848.90 this year. College families can expect to spend $1,200.32.
“Back to school just keeps getting more expensive each year, and even more so this year after kids were learning remotely at home for the past few semesters,” says April Lewis-Parks, Education Director for Consolidated Credit. “If you want to avoid credit card debt, you need to take advantage of every opportunity you can to save money.”
These tips can help you save money over your tax-free weekend:
- Set a budget for how much you want to spend over the weekend. Check your budget and see how much cash flow you have available to spend that weekend. Try to avoid spending more than that, since any extra purchases would end up on a credit card.
- Start with the most expensive items first. For example, if you’re buying school supplies and electronics, buy the electronics first so you can make sure to get those items tax-free.
- Pair a tax-free weekend with other sales to maximize your savings. This year, retailers are offering big sales to try and drive more business following the huge dropoff in sales during the pandemic. Look for sales and see if you can double up on savings. Check for coupons, follow your favorite retailers on social, and sign up for their emails to get details on exclusive sales.
“Many parents can also take advantage of advance child tax credit payments,” Lewis-Parks explains. “The next payment advance will be distributed to eligible parents on August 15. So, you can use those funds to give your budget a boost during this expensive shopping season.”
Parents that haven’t started to receive these payments can learn more about how to determine if you’re eligible and sign up in our Advance Child Tax Credit Guide.