Your Money Adviser: Sales Tax Holidays for School Supplies May Deliver Less Than Promised

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Octavio Blanco, a money writer with Consumer Reports, suggested that shoppers might want to buy some back-to-school items to take advantage of tax holidays, then wait to buy the rest in September, after school is in session for a while, when stores may cut prices to move inventory.

Also, Mr. Blanco said, promotion of the tax-free events may give the impression that all merchandise is included. But the details often reveal that many items are excluded or that the dollar amount of items eligible for tax-free status is limited.

In Connecticut, for instance, most individual items priced under $100 are exempt from sales tax during its tax-free week. The full sales tax is charged on items priced at $100 or more.

“Know the parameters,” Mr. Blanco said.

Here are some questions and answers about back-to-school savings:

What states have sales tax holidays?

States with back-to-school tax holidays in 2018 are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. Most were scheduled for late July or the first week of August.

Massachusetts didn’t hold a tax holiday the past two years but is scheduled to hold one Aug. 11-12, pending the governor’s expected approval.

Other states with coming holidays include Connecticut (Aug. 19-25), Maryland (Aug. 12-18) and Texas (Aug. 10-12).

Are purchases of laptops and computers included in sales tax holidays?

Rules for computers and electronics vary by state. Some states waive taxes on them, but typically cap the total price eligible for the savings.

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