Sales Tax Holidays: A Race to the Register

Anna-mary Geist
July 29, 2015

If you live in a state with a Sales Tax Holiday, you know how exciting it can be. Stores beef up inventory of the affected items, shoppers get their mega-shopping lists ready, and it’s a race to the register. All this is in an effort to save an average of a few dollars per transaction.

If the average benefit is so little, why do we shop and why is it so exciting? Some shoppers say it the satisfaction of “sticking” it to the government while others know they are going to buy the items anyway, so they might as well save some money by making their purchases during a tax holiday. Some retailers, on the other hand, see tax holidays as “Christmas in July” and a way to increase sales and go into the actual holiday season with a head start. In fact, many retailers even offer increased incentives, such as offering triple the amount of the sales tax as a discount, to further entice people to get out and spend money.

During the months of July and August 2015, a potential 19 US States and Territories will offer Sales Tax Holidays to their shoppers. These holidays range from two days to one week in length. You can learn more about the specifics of each jurisdiction’s holiday by accessing our recently published infographic: https://sovos.com/education/indirect/sales-tax-holidays/.  The items covered in most holidays range from clothing, footwear, computers, and school supplies to tissues, hand sanitizers, baby wipes, children’s costumes, WaterSense items, and firearms.  Select states such as Louisiana and Massachusetts (final passage for 2015 still pending) include all tangible personal property with limited exceptions for things such as automobiles and prepared food. Most holidays also set one or more thresholds under which items must fall in order to qualify for exempt treatment. States also outline specific rules regarding layaway, returns, refunds, exchanges, and other areas where customers could try to extend a holiday past its effective dates. It’s good practice to always read the DOR’s fine print in order to avoid surprises.

This year, whether you are “sticking” it to the Government or just looking to save a little money as your children head back to class, Sales Tax Holidays create a unique, and often fun, shopping experience.

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Anna-mary Geist

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