Local News

Tax-free school shopping days set

— Parents getting ready for back-to-school shopping will not have to pay sales tax on school supplies, clothing, footwear and other items Aug. 1 through 3.

This year, the three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday returns with bigger exemptions.

Shoppers don’t pay sales tax on clothing items that cost $100 or less an item, from last year’s $75 limit.

Clothes, shoes and accessories — from purses to backpacks — are tax-free up to $100 or less per item, up $25 from 2013.

Likewise, personal computers and certain computer-related accessories will be tax-free for the first $750 of the sales price rather than $750 an item, allowing people to buy more expensive desktops, tablets and laptops.

The Florida Legislature has to approve the tax holiday every year, which is open only to specific items  That includes purchase of eligible items by mail order or online.

Tax exemptions on school supplies remain unchanged at $15 per item. That includes pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, notebooks, notebook paper, legal pads, binders, lunch boxes, construction paper, markers, folders, poster board, composition books, poster paper, scissors, cellophane tape, glue or paste, rulers, computer disks, protractors, compasses, and calculators.

High-tech accessories such as printers, scanners, ink cartridges, data storage, batteries, cables and headphones, among other gear, also qualify.

What does not qualify are cases for electronic devices, cell phones, computer bags, computer paper, digital cameras, video game consoles, among other items.

Shoppers may not realize the tax-free holiday extends to eligible items sold by consignment stores, such as Kathy’s Consignment in Sebring.

Store associate Amy Smith said they have “tons” of clothing items with yellow tickets or half-off tags.

While the store does not sell kids’ clothing, they cater to women between the ages of 22 and 82, and are popular at this time of the year with college students looking for jeans and other casual wear and older teens from high schools.

Sebring Kmart store manager Tom Tibble said the back-to-school tax holiday is a big shopping day for consumers looking to buy apparel, school supplies and footwear. Plus, there are many electronic items that are tax-exempt, he added.

“It’s a very, very big day for us,” he said.

Retailers say they expect an average increase of at least 30 percent in store traffic from of the sales tax holiday, said the Florida Retail Federation.

“Retailers are reporting a strong trend of sales growth of between 4 and 5 percent statewide, and we expect spending to remain strong through the crucial month of August,” FRF President and CEO Rick McAllister said.

Florida residents are expected to save at least $40 million over the three-day holiday, the retail group says.

Combined spending for back to school and college is expected to reach about $5 billion in Florida, and tax-exempt sales will account for an estimated $600 million of that spending, the group says.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2014 back-to-school survey, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from $634.78 last year.


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