Back-to-school shopping is expensive. Tax-free weekends can help you score significant savings on clothing, shoes and school supplies, along with big-ticket items like computers and graphing calculators. MoneyGeek breaks down the states that offer these holidays and the best ways to maximize your savings.
Back-to-School Sales Tax Holidays: Does Your State Have One, and How Much Could You Save?
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.
- 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
Clothing, footwear, computers, software, computer supplies, school supplies, school art supplies, instructional material & books (non-commercial purposes)
Clothing, footwear, electronic devices, school supplies, school art supplies & school instructional materials
Clothing & footwear Items
Clothing, footwear, certain accessories, school supplies, personal computers & certain computer-related accessories
Clothing & footwear
Clothing, footwear, backpacks & accessory items
All items except meals, motor vehicles, motorboats, telecommunications services, gas, steam, electricity, tobacco products, marijuana or marijuana products & alcoholic beverages
Clothing, footwear, accessories & school supplies
Clothing, footwear, school supplies, computers, computer software, computer peripheral devices & graphing calculators
Clothing, footwear, computers, computer equipment, school supplies, handheld calculators & backpacks
Clothing, footwear, school supplies & school instructional materials
Clothing & footwear
Clothing, footwear, school supplies, computers, printers & printer supplies, computer software & backpacks
Clothing, footwear, school supplies & computers
Clothing, footwear, face masks, backpacks & school supplies
Clothing, footwear & school supplies
Clothing, footwear, school supplies, school instructional materials, computers & tablets
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.
States Without Back-to-School Sales Tax Holidays
- District Of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
About the Author
- Federal Tax Administrators. "2021 State Sales Tax Holidays." Accessed July 8, 2021.
- Missouri Department of Revenue. "Back to School Tax Holiday." Accessed July 12, 2021.
- New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department. "Gross Receipts Tax Holiday." Accessed July 16, 2021.
- Sales Tax Institute. "Sales Tax Holidays." Accessed July 8, 2021.
- State of Oregon. "Sales Tax." Accessed July 9, 2021.