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Everything you need to know about tax-free holidays in 2021 – CNET

tax-free weekends
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It may feel like summer’s just getting started, but many stores are already offering back to school deals and you may find particularly compelling discounts during your state’s tax-free weekend — if it has one. 

Also known as tax holidays, these weekend or week-long special events exclude sales tax from certain categories — often back-to-school related items such as accessories, computers, clothing and athletic gear. This year, 17 states are participating, including West Virginia, which is hosting a tax holiday weekend for the first time.

The best news? You don’t have to be a resident of the state to enjoy tax-free savings. Check out the map below to find out if your state participates in a tax-free event, when its happening and if a state nearby might offer tax-free savings.

Tax-free weekend dates and deals by state

Alabama

Dates: July 16 to 17, 2021 — although this year’s event has ended, if you missed out, you can check out nearby tax-free weekends in Mississippi on July 30 and July 31 or in Tennessee from July 30 to Aug. 1.

Tax-free items

  • School supplies: $50 or less per item
  • Books: $30 or less per item
  • Computers: $750 or less per item
  • Clothing: $100 or less per item
  • View the full list of items on the Alabama Department of Revenue website

Arkansas

Dates: Aug. 7 to 8, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item
  • School accessories: $50 or less per item
  • Computers and selected school supplies
  • View the full list of items on the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration website

Connecticut

Dates: Aug. 15 to 21, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item, excluding athletic gear and uniforms
  • View the full list of items on the Connecticut Department of Revenue website

Florida

Dates: July 31 to Aug. 9, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $60 or less per item
  • Select accessories: $60 or less per item
  • School supplies: $15 or less per item
  • Computers: Tax-free for the first $1,000 spent
  • View the full list of items on the Florida Department of Revenue website

Iowa

Dates: Aug. 6 to 7, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item, excluding athletic gear, backpacks and handbags
  • View the full list of items on the Iowa Department of Revenue website

Maryland

Dates: Aug. 8 to 14, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item
  • Backpacks: Tax-free for the first $40 spent
  • View the full list of items on the Comptroller of Maryland website

Massachusetts

Dates: Aug. 14 to 15, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Retail items purchased for personal use (business purchases excluded): $2,500 or less, excluding meals, motor vehicles, motorboats, gas, electricity, tobacco, marijuana or marijuana products, alcoholic beverages and so on
  • View the full list of items on the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website

Mississippi

Dates: July 30 to 31, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item
  • School supplies: $100 or less per item
  • View the full list of items on the Mississippi Department of Revenue website

Missouri

Dates: Aug. 6 to 8, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing: $100 or less per item
  • School supplies: $50 or less per item
  • Computer software: $350 or less per item
  • Personal computers: $1,500 or less per item
  • Graphing calculators: $150 or less per item
  • View the full list of items on the Missouri Department of Revenue website

New Mexico

Dates: Aug. 6 to 8, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item
  • Computers: $1,000 or less per item
  • Computer software: $500 or less per item
  • School supplies: $30 or less per item
  • View the full list of items on the New Mexico Taxation & Revenue website

Ohio

Dates: Aug. 6 to 8, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing: $75 or less per item
  • School supplies and books: $20 or less per item
  • View the full list of items on the Ohio Department of Taxation website

Oklahoma

Dates: Aug. 6 to 8, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item, excluding athletic gear and uniforms
  • View the full list of items on the Oklahoma Tax Commission website

South Carolina

Dates: Aug. 6 to 8, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes 
  • Select accessories
  • School supplies
  • Computers
  • View the full list of items on the South Carolina Department of Revenue website

Tennessee

Dates: July 30 – Aug. 1, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item, excluding handbags, jewelry and sports gear
  • School and art supplies: $100 or less per item
  • Laptops, tablets and computers: $1,500 or less per item
  • View the full list of items on the Tennessee Department of Revenue website

Texas

Dates: Aug. 6 to 8, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item
  • School supplies: $100 or less per item
  • View the full list of items on the Texas Comptroller website

Virginia

Dates: Aug. 6 to 8, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing and shoes: $100 or less per item
  • School supplies: $20 or less per item
  • Energy Star, WaterSense and hurricane preparedness items (with qualifying limits)
  • View the full list of items on the Virginia Department of Taxation website

West Virginia

Dates: July 30 to Aug. 2, 2021

Tax-free items

  • Clothing: $125 or less per item
  • School supplies: $50 or less per item
  • School books and instructional materials: $20 or less per item
  • Laptop and tablets: $500 or less per item
  • Sports equipment: $150 or less per item
  • View the full list of items on the West Virginia State Tax Department website

States that are always sales tax-free

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon

What is a tax holiday?

A tax holiday, also called a tax-free weekend or week, refers to a period of time when qualifying items are exempt from sales tax. Some states hold tax-free holidays annually, and a few even host several tax-free events throughout the year. Most states that participate in tax holidays hold an event in the summer that aligns with back-to-school shopping. 

Do tax-free weekends include online sales?

Yes, online purchases for state residents made during their sales tax holiday will be tax-free, even through large online retailers like Amazon. Just make sure you follow your state’s guidelines for qualifying items.

What happens if I buy a qualifying item that’s over the dollar limit?

This varies by state. In Maryland for example, the first $40 spent on a backpack is tax-free. If you were to spend $60 on a backpack, you would only be taxed for $20. However, in a state like Massachusetts, if you go over the price limit — $2,500 for all qualifying purchases — the entire item is subject to sales tax. We recommend reviewing your starters full item list and rules to plan accordingly.

Do all cities in a state holding a tax holiday participate?

Most states require all cities and businesses therein to participate in tax-free holidays. AlabamaFlorida and Missouri do not.

Can you save money by shopping during a tax holiday?

You can save money by avoiding sales tax during a tax holiday, particularly in states with high sales tax rates like Tennessee (9.55%), Arkansas (9.51%) and Alabama (9.22%). That said, you’ll want to make sure you stick to a budget to avoid overspending and do your research on back-to-school deals. Some stores may offer lower prices on clothing, supplies and computers than you might receive by paying full price during a tax holiday.