Frazzled parents everywhere welcome back-to-school season with open arms and wallets.
A tax-free holiday will make it even more of a relief.
On Friday, Aug. 5, Alabama’s 11th annual sales tax holiday for back-to-school supplies kicks off.
For three days, shoppers will see the state’s four-percent sales tax waived for computers and computer equipment (priced at $750 or less), clothing ($100 or less), school supplies ($50 or less) and books ($30 or less).
Sales taxes levied by nearly 300 participating Alabama cities and counties will also be waived between 12:01 a.m. Friday, Aug. 5 and midnight Sunday, Aug. 7.
In addition, for the first time in a decade, Jefferson County will fully participate. Previously, the county had cited fiscal reasons in voting against the holiday, which is expected to cost about $125,000 in lost revenue.
“We were having financial issues and wanted to try to help our employees,” said Commissioner George Bowman. “But economic development has skyrocketed since then. We’re really on the rebound.”
“The county’s more solvent, our credit rating has risen,” said Commissioner Sandra Little Brown. “We need to be ready to serve our citizens in any way possible.”
Statewide, more than $1.1 billion will be spent by back-to-school shoppers, according to the Alabama Retail Association (ARA), in what is historically the second-busiest retail period of the year.
Online shoppers will benefit as well. But the holiday is designed to support homegrown retailers.
“If you spend your money in Alabama, those people are investing in the community, sponsoring Little League teams — they’re your friends and neighbors,” said Nancy Dennis, director of public relations for ARA, which is promoting its Shop Alabama campaign.
“I think it’s a great thing for us to do, passing on savings to our citizens,” said Brown. “It should help the retail businesses in the area.”
At the Summit Apple Store in Birmingham, an employee said they expect to see increased sales of iPads, Mac minis and Beats headphones.
“I’d be more interested to see if they raise the spending limit,” the Apple employee said. “For computers nowadays, we expect to spend over a thousand dollars. I’d like to see them raise that limit so people could get a computer at a tax-reduced price.”
Dennis expressed concerns that some shoppers may not know which items qualify and which are exempt. Brown said she hoped that more stores will advertise the holiday.
“I think the media needs to enhance the message: Don’t forget to go out and buy,” she said.
“We definitely promote it,” said Phillip Forstall, co-owner of Forstall Art Center in Homewood. “Absolutely, it’s a smart move for Jefferson County.”
One county shopper brought her fifth-grade son to the Office Depot in Hoover last Saturday. Holding a fistful of coupons, she was unaware of the upcoming sales-tax holiday.
“But I’ll be going back out next weekend for my daughter,” she said.
While students and their parents will benefit, so will their schools.
“It’s a boon for our educators,” said Bowman. “My wife is a teacher, and she always has to buy additional equipment for her classroom.”
Tawanna Willoughby, administrative coordinator of Hands On Birmingham, a nonprofit group that donates backpacks full of school supplies to needy children, said she is looking forward to the holiday.
”This year has kind of been a struggle, but I am hopeful that it’s going to pick up, especially after this weekend,” she said. “People are able to buy more than they usually would buy. It could possibly make a difference.”