These States’ Tax-Free Holidays Mean Savings on Back-to-School Shopping

A father holds his daughter as they reach for school supplies at Walmart.
Mike Brassfield, a staff writer for The Penny Hoarder, and his daughter, Annabelle Brassfield, 9, reach for a school supplies box while shopping at Walmart Supercenter in St. Petersburg, Fla., on July 23, 2019. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Back-to-school shopping may be exciting for the kids who’ll get new gear, but less so for the parents who have to pay for it all.

The National Retail Federation estimates the average household with kids in elementary through high school is expected to spend about $789.49 on clothing, electronics and school supplies in 2020 — an increase of nearly $100 over last year, thanks to additional expenses of at-home learning this year.

Some shoppers will be able to find a little financial relief this summer as 15 states have tax-free holidays coming up in July and August, saving consumers from paying sales tax on certain school-related items.

Now, you may not save a ton of money by shopping during tax-free holidays. For example, if you bought $500 worth of clothes, shoes and school supplies during Florida’s tax-free weekend in a county where the sales tax is 6%, you would save only $30. But what parent wouldn’t want to save 30 bucks?

And if you use the tax-free holidays in conjunction with smart budgeting strategies and comparison shopping, you’ll save even more on your back-to-school supplies.

Some states’ tax-free holidays are held over a weekend, while others are a week long. Each state has different criteria for what merchandise won’t be taxed, and many states require the purchases to be under a certain price threshold.

And if you live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire or Oregon, every day is a holiday — those states don’t have a sales tax.

Tax-Free Weekends: When, Where and What

The states that have back-to-school tax-free holidays still coming up this year are Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Arkansas

When: Aug. 1-2

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.
  • Clothing accessories — less than $50 per item.
  • School supplies — no price threshold, but must be on a state-approved list.

Connecticut

When: Aug. 16-22

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.

Florida

When: Aug. 7-9

What is tax-free:

  • Computers and certain electronics — $1,000 or less per item.
  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — $60 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $15 or less per item.

Iowa

When: Aug. 7-8

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.

Maryland

When: Aug. 9-15

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • Bookbags/backpacks — the first $40 is tax-free.

Massachusetts

When: Aug. 29-30

What is tax-free:

  • Most consumer products — $2,500 or less per item.
  • Clothing — Massachusetts does not charge any sales tax on clothes under $175 year round.

Mississippi

When: July 31 – Aug. 1

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing, shoes and school supplies — less than $100 per item.

Missouri

When: Aug. 7-9

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing, shoes and disposable diapers — $100 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $50 or less per purchase (exception: graphing calculators must be $150 or less).
  • Computers and related equipment — $1,500 or less per item.
  • Computer software — $350 or less.
FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

New Mexico

When: Aug. 7-9

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — less than $100 per item.
  • School supplies — less than $30 per item (exceptions: backpacks, maps and globes must be under $100 and calculators must be under $200).
  • Computers — $1,000 or less per item.
  • Computer hardware — $500 or less per item.

Ohio

When: Aug. 7-9

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing — $75 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $20 or less per item.
  • School instructional materials — $20 or less per item.

Oklahoma

When: Aug. 7-9

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.

South Carolina

When: Aug. 7-9

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing, accessories and shoes — no price threshold.
  • School supplies — no price threshold.
  • Computers and related equipment — no price threshold.
  • Bedding, pillows, bath towels, wash cloths and shower curtains — no price threshold.
  • Books and musical instruments — no price threshold (if they are for school assignments).

Tennessee

When: July 31 – Aug. 2

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $200 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $200 or less per item.
  • Computers — $3,000 or less per item.

Bonus: The Tennessee General Assembly approved a second tax holiday in 2020 for sales of restaurant food and drinks, Aug. 7-9.

Texas

When: Aug. 7-9

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — less than $100 per item.
  • School supplies — less than $100 per item.

Virginia

When: Aug. 7-9

What is tax-free:

  • Clothing and shoes — $100 or less per item.
  • School supplies — $20 or less per item.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.