As of 2012, 19 states offered consumers tax-free holidays when you could pick up items for school or home improvements and skip the taxes. If you time your shopping to coincide with those holidays in your state, you can save a bundle. While most states offer the deals to support back-to-school expenditures, some states also use tax-free holidays to support purchases such as energy-saving appliances and personal protection products.
Most of the states that offer the no-tax weekends do so in August, when kids are preparing to head back to school. Clothing is the most common item that receives a tax-pass during those selected dates. And it doesn’t have to be just kids’ clothes. All clothing receives the pass, though the limit on how much you can spend on one item varies from state to state. In Connecticut, for example, any item of clothing or footwear that costs $300 or less is exempt from taxes, while in Maryland, Missouri and Oklahoma, the limit is $100.
School supplies you can get during the tax-free holidays range from pens and paper to calendars and computers. Again, depending on where you live, the items that are exempt have their limits. In Virginia, for example, any one item can’t cost more than $20 and any supplies for a computer are not eligible for the tax break. North Carolina, on the other hand, lets you skip your sales tax for computers and computer-related hardware as long as it costs $3,500 or less. North Carolina also lets you purchase sports equipment under the school supplies definition as long as each item is $50 or less.
To encourage you to stock your home with energy-saving appliances, some states offer a tax-free weekend on a host of items. The dates are different than those reserved for the school shopping. In Georgia, for example, you don’t have to pay taxes for one weekend in October on any products that are energy efficient and cost $1,500 or less. Same goes for items that are water efficient, such as toilets and washing machines. North Carolina has a tax-free holiday on any Energy Star in October. Texas offers tax-free purchases in May on air-conditioners that cost $6,000 or less.
While a number of states provide consumers with a tax-free holiday to get ready for weather-related events such as hurricanes, other states let you buy firearms tax free during specific times. Louisiana lets shoppers buy hurricane preparedness products for $1,500 or less in May. Alabama holds a tax-free weekend in July when you can purchase a generator for up to $1,000 without paying taxes. South Carolina and Louisiana are the only two states that offer a tax-free holiday on guns. In South Carolina you can buy handguns, rifles and other guns during a tax-free weekend in November. Louisiana lets you buy hunting supplies, ammunition and firearms tax-free during its tax-free holiday in September.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."