Alabama’s pre-school sales tax holiday takes on extra significance during pandemic

Alabama’s pre-school sales tax holiday takes on extra significance during pandemic
Whether they're working at school or at home this fall, students will need school supplies. This weekend offers Alabamians a chance to save money on a variety of items, including clothes and computers. (Getty Images)

Starting at midnight tonight and through the weekend, Alabamians can potentially save a bundle on items for the coming school year – and many items that aren’t just for school.

This is the 15th year the state has conducted its annual sales tax holiday ahead of the school year, which means a savings of 4% in state sales tax, right off the bat. But more than 300 counties and cities are also participating, which means savings of up to 10% in many locations.

Nancy Dennis, spokesperson for the Alabama Retail Association, said many retailers are holding sales on top of the sales tax holiday, which means even greater savings.

The ongoing pandemic adds a twist to this year’s sales tax holiday. With many schools considering distance learning for some or all their students, the weekend tax break can mean significant savings for parents who need updated technology to support their stay-at-home pupils – not to mention their own technology, with many more adults working from home. The tax exemption applies to computers, laptops, tablets and printers priced up to $750.

“It’s always been computers and computer equipment – those big-ticket items – where you can save the most,” Dennis said.

The pandemic has made going back to school — and back-to-school shopping — more complicated this year. (Getty Images)

Of course, the exemption also applies to a host of items that are needed for both school or the home office, such as paper, pens and printer ink.

More broadly, the items exempted from sales tax this weekend are:

  • Clothing priced at $100 or less per article.
  • School supplies valued at $50 or less per item.
  • Books that cost $30 or less.

Keep in mind that under the clothing category, there are tax-exempt items that wouldn’t necessarily be considered just for school. For example, diapers are exempt from sales tax this weekend – a potential boon for young families. So are neckties, underwear, hats, scarves, shoes, sandals and sneakers, for all ages. On the other hand, some items that are typically on student-supply lists, such as paper towels, hand sanitizers and wipes, are not exempt. Neither are items like handbags, briefcases and sports-related gear. A more detailed list of exempt and non-exempt items can be found here.

Dennis said shoppers should put together a game plan for the sales tax holiday, because of the pandemic. She said many stores offer online ordering and curbside pickup, a benefit for those trying to avoid physically entering retail stores. She said the retail association encourages people to shop locally where they can and support family-owned stores at a time when many small businesses have been hurt by the virus-induced economic slump.

“It’s a great way to support local businesses and help them stay in business,” Dennis said.

The sales tax exemption ends at midnight Sunday night. Check the 2020 participating cities and counties list to make sure you are shopping in the right place to get the most bang for your buck.

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