The 2016 Georgia back-to-school sales tax holiday starts at midnight on Friday, July 30, and ends at midnight on Saturday, July 31. Certain purchases made over the tax holiday weekend will be exempt from state and local sales tax.
Three types of goods are exempt from sales tax during the tax-free holiday: clothing and footwear; computers, computer components and software; and school supplies.
Clothing and footwear are exempt from sales tax as long as the item costs $100 or less. Jewelry, watches or watchbands, eyewear, handbags, belt buckles — those sold separately from belts — and selected other items are not exempt from sales tax.
Computers, computer components and prewritten computer software purchased for noncommercial home or personal use are exempt if the purchase price is $1,000 or less per item. In previous years, the $1,000 limit applied to transactions rather than individual items.
School supplies, art supplies, computer supplies and school instructional materials with a sales price of $20 or less per item that are purchased for noncommercial use are exempt from the sales tax during the sales tax holiday.
Saving 6 or 7 percent on purchases adds up. Most retailers offer big sales to attract more business. The following tips may help you save time, money and frustration during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year.
- Know what is not exempt. You will still pay sales tax on belt buckles sold separately; costume masks sold separately; patches and emblems sold separately; sewing equipment and supplies, including but not limited to knitting needles, patterns, pins, scissors, sewing machines, sewing needles, tape measures and thimbles; sewing materials that become part of clothing, including but not limited to buttons, fabric, lace, tread, yarn and zippers; clothing accessories or equipment; and cellular telephones. A full list of exempt items is available here: dor.georgia.gov/press-releases/2016-04-27/2016-sales-tax-holidays.
- Check advertisements and fliers for sales. Look for coupons for items you plan to buy. For computer purchases, gather information about features and options and compare prices from different stores.
- Shop with a list. Write down what each child needs as far as clothing and school supplies.
- Leave the kids at home. If you need to bring a child along to try on clothing, consider two trips. Go out by yourself to purchase school supplies and/or computers and accessories. While you are out, make note of any particularly good clothing sales and return to those stores later in the weekend with the children.
- Avoid using credit. Unless you pay the balance in full with each statement, the interest you pay on a credit card balance can offset any savings. To avoid temptation, leave your credit cards at home.
- Check online. Many online retailers participate in the sales tax holiday weekend. Make sure shipping and handling charges do not offset the tax savings on your purchase.
- Finally, bring along plenty of patience and a positive attitude. The stores, parking lots and roads around shopping centers are going to be busy and crowded. Checkout lines will be long. If you do not enjoy shopping, the sales tax holiday weekend might be a good time to stay at home.
(Michael Rupured is a financial specialist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.)