HARLINGEN — Remember when Labor Day used to be the harbinger of kids returning to school?
These days, at least in Texas, the marker for the beginning of the end of summer is now the fall Sales Tax Holiday.
The tax-break weekend, instituted in 1999, will be held Aug. 9-11, giving parents the chance to save about 8 percent on purchases ranging from pens and pencils to backpacks, to clothes, shoes and cowboy boots.
The deal is individual items have to cost less than $100. They can be purchased locally or online, although shipping costs that push an item over the $100 limit means it won’t be tax-exempt.
What’s on the list?
School supplies are on the list of the Office of Texas Comptroller, but not textbooks. Clothes such as pants, shorts, hoodies, suits, sport coats and shirts are on the list. Swimsuits are on it, too.
So are running shoes, tennis shoes and sneakers. Not making the tax-exempt list are specialty shoes, like baseball and football cleats, or golf shoes, since these aren’t likely to be worn on an everyday basis.
School uniforms are on the tax-free list. But then so are work clothes, including uniforms like scrubs.
Norma Cavazos is owner of A-Plus Uniforms and Accessories located at 108 West Jackson Ave. in the downtown district where she moved her business just two months ago.
“We have sets starting at $24 and also we have the WonderWink brand and different colors and different varieties,” she said of her medical scrubs.
“We have the shoes coming in actually this Friday,” she said this past week. “I have the nursing shoes that are going to be coming in and also we have the nursing bags coming in at under a hundred bucks.”
Cavazos has been in business for more than two years, but is new to the downtown area. She said that for the tax-exempt weekend, she’ll be open Sunday, too.
“We are going to be running a three-part discount,” she said. “If you get a set you would get like 10-percent off. If you buy a set and shoes you get 15 percent off and if you get the shoes and the stethoscope, you get 20 percent off. You get a bundled deal.”
Pens and pencils
Wendy Dick is general manager at Dick Office Supply at 1009 S. 77 Sunshine Strip, and her take on the back-to-school tax-free holiday is a little more traditional, focusing a lot on the list of classroom necessities teachers deliver to their incoming class before school starts.
“We do have binders and filler paper and pens and pencils and all of the types of things kids need to go back to school for their teacher list,” Dick said. “We have a certain number of parents every year, it seems like, who come in to find stuff that they can’t find anywhere else.
“We try to make sure that if there’s an unusual item on the school list for the kids — that purple, plastic, double-pocket folder, and nobody else has purple, plastic, double-pocket folders, we try to make sure we have that on hand so that they can finish their list,” she added.
At her store, she does have a special area called the School Room where a lot of these classroom items are available.
Yet she says the tax-exempt school weekend is generally not her biggest event when it comes to selling school supplies.
That part of the business would be the teachers who make up some of her best customers all year round, she said.
“The teachers spend a great deal of their own money,” Dick said. “You’d be amazed how much people spend of their own money to decorate their classrooms to improve the experience that their students have in their classroom.
“That’s a large portion of our business on the school-supply side,” she added.
$100 million in savings
The Texas tax-free back-to-school weekend is certainly for a good cause, outfitting kids to return to school in style, and saving parents an average of $8 for every $100 spent. As parents can attest, clothing costs alone for kids can hit $100 pretty fast when out shopping these days.
“As Texas families begin the process of replacing their beach towels with lunch boxes, the sales tax holiday is the perfect opportunity to save some money on supplies families need before the school bell rings,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said. “As a father of three, I know how these expenses can add up.”
Shoppers this year will save an estimated $102.2 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday.
Various clothing, shoes
Barrettes (taxed), backpacks (some exemptions), briefcases (taxed), baseball and football cleats (taxed), golf caps, dresses, shirts, jackets (exempt), running shoes, sandals, slippers, sneakers (exempt), soccer cleats (taxed), baby clothes (exempt), hats (exempt), hoodies (exempt), hunting, fishing vests (exempt), leg warmers, leotards, tights (exempt), cowboy boots, hiking boots (exempt), jogging clothes (exempt), suits, slacks and jackets (exempt), sweatshirts, sweaters, swimsuits (exempt), school uniforms (exempt), work uniforms (exempt).
The following items do not qualify for a sales tax exemption:
Items sold for $100 or more
Clothing subscription boxes
Specially-designed athletic activity or protective-use clothing or footwear. For example, golf cleats and football pads are usually worn only when people play golf or football, so they do not qualify for the exemption. Tennis shoes, jogging suits and swimsuits, however, can be worn for other than athletic activity and qualify for the exemption.
Clothing or footwear rentals, alterations (including embroidery) and cleaning services
Items used to make or repair clothing, such as fabric, thread, yarn, buttons, snaps, hooks and zippers
Jewelry, umbrellas, wallets, watches and other accessories
During the sales tax holiday, student backpacks sold for less than $100 are exempt from tax.
The exemption includes backpacks with wheels and messenger bags. You can buy up to 10 backpacks tax-free at one time without giving an exemption certificate to the seller.
Backpacks with frames will be taxed. Luggage, briefcases, athletic, duffle or gym bags and computer bags will be taxed.
Full list of items
During the sales tax holiday, you can buy qualifying items tax free when you:
Make the final payment on an item already on layaway or choose an item and place it on layaway
Special Orders and Rain Checks
During the sales tax holiday, you can buy qualifying items tax-free, even if the items have to be ordered.
For example, if you pay for an $80 shirt that must be special-ordered or is on back order, and you pick up the shirt after the sales tax holiday, it still qualifies for the exemption.
Products purchased online which qualify also are tax-exempt. But if shipping costs push the item above the $100 limit, it will be taxed.