Back-to-School Sales Tax Holidays: Does Your State Have One, and How Much Could You Save?

ByNicole Duxbury

Updated: May 19, 2023

ByNicole Duxbury

Updated: May 19, 2023

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Back-to-school sales tax holidays tend to fall on popular shopping weekends in late July or early August — depending on the state — and eliminate tax on items consumers might need to prepare for the new school year. These can include clothing, computers and computer software, school supplies, books and more.

Back-to-school tax holidays allow parents to score big savings on school-year essentials, ease the cost of key items for college students, and help everyone save money on a broad variety of goods.

Key Takeaways:

  • Sixteen states in the U.S. currently have back-to-school sales tax holidays.
  • Alabama, Missouri and Arkansas offer savings on products in seven or more back-to-school categories — the most compared to all other states.
  • Different states offer tax exemptions on different products, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the items that qualify where you live before you set out with your shopping list.
  • Each state has its own spending maximums, which can factor into your total savings.
  • While tax holidays can help families with back-to-school budgeting, our expert notes that consumers may run into some pitfalls when shopping across state lines.

States With Back-to-School Tax Holidays in 2021


How to Take Advantage of Sales Tax Holidays

Taking advantage of back-to-school sales tax holidays is a great way to reduce costs on pricier items, such as computers and software, or products people tend to buy in larger quantities, like new clothes.

Thomas Landers, CPA, Partner at The Bonadio Group, suggests following these tips to make the most of your tax holiday shopping:


Find Out How Long Your State's Tax Holiday Lasts

Sales tax holidays typically run for a certain number of days — be sure to check your state’s specific rules and timing.


Determine What Items Qualify

The types of items exempt from sales tax vary by state and by tax holiday. Before shopping, compare your child’s shopping list to the state’s list of sales tax-exempt items.


Familiarize Yourself With Your State's Maximum Dollar Limits

Many states set maximum dollar amounts eligible items can’t exceed to remain exempt from sales tax. Be sure to understand your state’s limitations before purchasing.


Shop In-Stores and Online

Tax exemptions apply to purchases made in stores and online, so consumers who enjoy shopping from the comfort of their homes can still make the most of these holidays.


Watch Out For Use Taxes

Be careful of traveling to bordering states for tax-free savings. Many states have tax laws that charge “use taxes” on purchases made outside the resident’s state for taxable items that will be used or consumed in the resident’s state. If your purchase would typically be taxed if you bought it in your state of residence, then you’ll have to pay a use tax.


Confirm That Retailers in Your Area Are Participating

Some states don't require all retailers or localities to participate in tax-free weekends. For example, New Mexico retailers can choose not to participate in tax-free weekends. In Missouri, localities have the opportunity to opt out of tax-free holidays. If you live in the state, be sure to check the list of cities, counties and districts that don’t participate.

States That Don’t Have Back-to-School Tax Holidays

Unfortunately, back-to-school tax holidays aren't available in every state. State Legislation determines annual sales tax holidays, so it’s up to state officials whether your state will hold a sales tax holiday or not.

There are many reasons why a state might not hold a back-to-school tax holiday. For example, Oregon does not impose a sales tax year-round, so there is no need for a tax holiday during the back-to-school season. Consumers that don’t live in a state that offers sales tax exemptions will need to adjust accordingly when planning their finances and back-to-school budgets.


About Nicole Duxbury

Nicole Duxbury headshot

Nicole Duxbury is a writer for MoneyGeek and a marketing and communications professional based in Reno, Nevada. She has more than six years of professional marketing and communications experience working with clients in finance, insurance, non-profit, international education, travel, food and beverage, consumer packaged goods, higher education and politics.