Save Money by Taking a State Tax Holiday

In an effort to spur retail sales, many states offer sales-tax holidays each summer — periods of time where sales tax is temporarily suspended on certain products. This year the slumping economy has some states enhancing their efforts by extending the holiday dates and broadening the list of eligible products. Smart Money lists each state sponsoring a sales-tax holiday as well as the applicable dates and details of each offer. It also suggests a few helpful hints for making the most of a sales-tax holiday as follows:

  • See if the holiday applies to local taxes, too. Check with your state tax commission to see what your town offers before you hit the local mall.
  • Check for exemptions. Find out which items the tax holiday excludes before putting together a shopping list.
  • Review your receipt to ensure that you don’t get charged.
  • Shop online when your state is having a sales-tax holiday. Any retailer that charges sales tax for purchases shipped to your state must waive it, as long as the order is processed within the holiday time period.

Too bad this idea isn’t more widespread. Seems like it would be a winner with cash-crunched shoppers looking to save money however they can.

Some States Extend Sales-Tax Holidays This Summer [Smart Money]


(Photo: ImNotQuiteJack)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MissTicklebritches says:

    Reading that list makes me so angry that my sales tax is 10.25% (Cook County, IL — Chicago metro area). Since the sales tax was just bumped up 1%, there’s no chance of a sales tax holiday any time soon.

  2. MercuryPDX says:

    In Oregon every day’s a holiday.

  3. phospholipid says:

    WHAT?!? No san diego :[. our sales 8.25 :[ do you know what it feels like buying a car at that tax!??!?! IT FEELS LIKE BUYING A CAR.

  4. resonanteye says:

    Also, Delaware.

    I live in Oregon, and I wanted to point out that if you have a business/wholesale license, you can use it to make all your purchases for that business tax-free in any state if you’re an Oregon resident.

  5. samurailynn says:

    @MercuryPDX: Yes, but we also pay for service at gas stations. Maybe we should have a gas station attendant holiday – all gas station attendants get a couple weeks off, and gas stations lower their prices by whatever markup it costs to pay their hourly wages. Of course… that would suck if you were a gas station attendant.

  6. copious28 says:

    Texas recently offered a tax holiday for purchasing Energy Star appliances that we took advantage of. We bought a reasonably priced, energy efficient refridgerator for 8.25% less.

  7. jscott73 says:

    @phospholipid: In SD too, was hoping to see California on the list, guess I will continue not spending…

  8. BlondeGrlz says:

    Yeah, Connecticut, you can make it look like you’re being generous by giving us a $300 limit on clothes instead of $100 like the other guys but until you stop raising the damn gas taxes every two months, I’m staying pissed off.

  9. Angryrider says:

    Pssh… 10% savings? That’s nothing. I usually buy things at least 25% off. The 8.375 sales tax sucks when you have to buy things at full price.

  10. witeowl says:

    I knew better, since we have no state income tax, but I was still hoping to see Nevada on the list. Bah. I have to curb my consumerism anyway.

  11. jscott73 says:

    @Angryrider: Just buy everything used through craigslist or garage sales, it’s like a perpetual sales tax holiday, not to mention the huge savings on the items themselves.

  12. Nissan288 says:

    Oregon = No Sales Tax.

    We don’t have to pump our own gas either.

  13. AnderBobo says:

    Having lived my entire life in Delaware sales tax is something I have absolutetly no concept of. I always have that moment of realization whenever I shop out of state and go up to pay for my $9.99 item with a ten dollar bill!

  14. wiggatron says:

    @phospholipid: That’s not that high. In Cuyahoga county Ohio it’s 7.75% (the highest in the state mind you). Just imagine those poor Canadians. Their sales taxes are significantly higher (although “free” health care helps soften that blow)

  15. petrarch1610 says:

    @samurailynn: gas in portland is only marginally more than in vancouver, sometimes its even cheaper.

  16. Landru says:

    @samurailynn: We have self-serve in California. It doesn’t make it any cheaper here.

  17. sir_pantsalot says:

    It is not worth it here in Texas. You spend $100 and save $8.25 but it took 3 times as long due to all of the lines and full parking lots. I might pay 8.25% higher if they could keep all of the dumbasses out of the store while I shop.

  18. QuantumRiff says:

    @MercuryPDX: It makes me feel like us Oregonians are missing out. We could have another holiday to celebrate blatant consumerism!

  19. bohemian says:

    We have a sales tax holiday in South Dakota, it is called shopping in Minneapolis. Clothing and groceries are tax free in MN. It is really odd running into multiple neighbors and coworkers at the MOA doing back to school shopping out of state. But our dept of revenue keeps claiming they are going to crack down on out of state purchases and force people to pay tax on every single qualifying out of state purchase.

  20. SHOCKING. California isn’t on the list.

  21. As a business owner I HATE sales tax holidays.

    Why? Because it causes a shift in consumer purchases that results in a concentration of sales during a narrow window of time. Concentrating sales can result in poorer customer service and higher consumer frustrations and does not increase the merchant’s total sales.

    In addition the idea of a sales tax holiday seems to be political pandering at its best. IF the state or taxing entity can afford to not collect sales taxes for a single day, the state can afford to reduce sales taxes all together.

    Therefore I would much prefer a REDUCTION in sales taxes every day of the year. Better for the merchant and better for the consumer that must purchase products every day of the year.

  22. Ringl says:

    @Corporate-Shill: I can get behind you on that but living in a touristy area I’m not going to count on it.

  23. @Nissan288:

    Oregon = No Sales Tax.

    How nice. So your State does without the infusion of $ that other States enjoy? Your State does not fund schools, road repairs and other tasks the States routinely perform? Your State Legislators work for free?

    I think not.

    So where is your State generating their feeding trough of $.

    How about property taxes? Business operating licenses? Business property taxes? Car tags? Boating permits? Fishing Licenses? The list goes on and on.

    So Oregon does not have a sales tax. How nice. Consumers still pay the piper. And the State still has a decent source of $ for the State Legislature to feed upon.

  24. @Ringl:

    Yep. Agree.

    One of my local cities just go State approval to levy a 2% sales tax on food services (restaurants, bars, concession stands at the youth ball park etc) to fund the City’s Fire Department and expanded children’s recreation programs. The City’s arguement was pretty simple…. better to let visitors to the City fund these programs than raise property taxes on City residents.

    How Nice.

  25. TWSS says:

    Since sales tax regressively taxes the working poor, I’m happy to pay more in income and property taxes to make up the shortfall. Too bad our public schools (in Portland at least) still suck butt.

    That said, where’s my property tax holiday? Kee-RIST. I’m already dreading November.

  26. samurailynn says:

    @Landru: That’s true, but everything is more expensive in California. Everything except alcohol.

    @Corporate-Shill: Oregon also has a decent record of coming in under budget. Last year we received a refund from the state because of it. Oh, and car tags are cheap. At least, far, far cheaper than California. As far as I’ve noticed, the income tax is a little higher than California, but not outrageously higher. Yes, we still pay, but it’s a beautiful state a nice place to live. I’d rather pay to live here than any of the other states I’ve spent much time in.

  27. RandomHookup says:

    It’s funny to watch people spend so much time to save 5% when by doing a little homework and waiting for a sale, they could save 20-50%.

  28. atypicalxian says:

    @AbsoluteIrrelevance: Ditto New Jersey. Another reason to consider leaving The Wretched State.

  29. Omniboy says:

    @wiggatron: I’m not sure what you’re talking about. There’s no sales tax here.

    There’s the 5% federal gst, but that’s it, and it’s no included on essential items like food.

  30. @samurailynn:

    I like Oregon as well. Many years ago had a job offer that would have relocated me to Oregon. Glad I didn’t take the job, but in a way I wish I had.

    I did enough comparisions to know my governmental cost of living (income tax, property tax, car tags, sales tax or the lack thereof etc) would have been about $150 per year more to have lived in Oregon than in Alabama. In other words, pretty much break even.

  31. crabbyman6 says:

    Pennsylvania has a tax-free PC week around when school starts again too. As the name implies you don’t pay any tax on PCs bought that week. I think they started it so more kids could have them for school, but its open to anyone. As far as I know this is still going on once a year.

  32. @Corporate-Shill: Yes, all a tax holiday does is shift spending patterns; it doesn’t save consumers money, and it can negatively impact state budgets.

  33. MercuryPDX says:

    @samurailynn: My friend Chris rants on his blog about the lack of Self Serve:


    His latest post links to a guy actually starting a petition for a ballot measure. I get the majority of my gas in Washington.

    @QuantumRiff: You’re always welcome to come across the river, flash your driver’s license, and earn the scorn of us Vancouverites as they erase the tax for you. ;)

  34. azntg says:

    Nothing in the “Booyah! We have a surplus and we don’t know how to spend it! Oh wait, we have a $5 billion deficit after all” New York state.

    Forget the city either. They’re hard up for money too and will try anything to tax us dry (latest notorious attempt: Congestion Pricing, which would’ve screwed over everybody but the rich bastards living in Midtown/Lower Manhattan. Rest In Pieces!)

  35. Gojulas says:

    Massachusetts is thinking of not doing a sales tax holiday this year. Some sort of political pissing matching is going on right now. We have been doing it for the last few years, and it did increase sales at our small campus computer store, but the overtime for the staff was a killer.

  36. samurailynn says:

    @MercuryPDX: Is it just in Vancouver that sales tax is waived for Oregonians? Is it only on certain products?

    I remember hearing about this from my middle school social studies teacher, but by the time I was a junior in high school and taking a trip to Washington with a friend no one there knew what we were talking about.

  37. Caslonbold says:

    @samurailynn:You asked: Is it just in Vancouver that sales tax is waived for Oregonians? Is it only on certain products?

    If you are from Oregon you can shop anywhere in Washington state, show your photo ID and you pay no sales tax.

    Washington State = we pay no state income tax – but we pay 8.9% sales tax around Seattle.

  38. Eels says:

    New Hampshire also has no sales tax.

    I get really confused when I buy things on vacation.

    Where do we pay extra? We have to have our cars registered and inspected every year which is extremely pricey, and the property taxes are high. Also the school systems suck, though that is just my personal opinion.

  39. @atypicalxian: Oh, I forgot to check NJ. Don’t get me started on them; I used to live there and my parents still do. I doubt there is a state where you get less for you tax dollar anywhere in the country. The roads are built for a 1970s population and the whole state is avoidant mindset to technology. Every time I go back to visit I want to go on a 30 minute rant about New Jersey and then stab myself.

  40. thelushie says:

    Nothing for Ohio. I am going to start doing all of my clothes shopping in PA. *sigh*

  41. lucidpsyche says:

    One of my friends used to work at a clothing store; she said that two weeks before the sales tax holiday, the store she worked at would raise prices.

  42. witeowl says:

    @Omniboy: I’m not sure why you don’t see the parallel between gst and sales tax. Sales tax is not levied on foods nor services. Your 5% gst may not be as high as my 7.375% sales tax, but I don’t have to pay tax on any services, only non-food goods, so I’m betting it’s a wash.

  43. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Florida eliminated the hurricane supplies tax holiday this year altogether, and has gutted the back-to-school tax holiday, trimming it from ten days to one week, and removing books from the tax-free list.

    Maybe if people in FL stop voting for every property tax break that gets dangled in front of them we wouldn’t be watching the state and counties cut jobs, worker benefits, and close needed facilities and eliminate helpful programs.

    But the rich folk need to keep as much of their (and my) money as they can.

  44. timsgm1418 says:

    Maryland isn’t listed, I guess since OMalley decided to raise the tax he has no interest in getting rid of it for even a few days

  45. MercuryPDX says:

    @Caslonbold: 8.2% here downstate. :)

  46. varro says:

    @QuantumRiff: That’s the parking lot at Jantzen Beach – Washingtonians having a sales tax holiday all the time here.

  47. thelushie says:

    @lucidpsyche: Which clothing store did she work at? When I worked retail, we never did anything like that.

  48. I never use that tax free thing in Alabama, because I am busy saving money all year long by going to Goodwill, yard sales, trade day (a.k.a. flea markets) and salvage stores (bent-n-dent). Also ordering from Amazon, eBay and other tax-free sites.