Georgia to skip sales tax-free weekend

Many students, teachers, and families use the annual “sales tax free weekend” as a way to save money while doing their back-to-school shopping. (Rob Bennett/The New York Times)

It’s official: there will be no tax-free weekends in Georgia this year.

State lawmakers failed to pass legislation during this year’s Legislative session to provide for any 2017 tax holidays, according to the Georgia Department of Revenue, ending the state’s two tax-free weekends.

Teachers, students, and their families have used the annual back-to-school tax-free weekend to save money while stocking up on school supplies, clothes, and electronics before the start of the school year. The weekend had been scheduled for July 29-30.

In past years, tax-exempt items included clothing (including footwear) with a sales price of $100 or less per item; computers, computer components, and prewritten software with a sales price of $1,000 or less per item; and school supplies with a sales price of $20 or less per item. Exempt items could only be purchased for noncommercial or personal use, allowing teachers to take advantage of the savings when purchasing items for their classrooms.

Over the past decade, a second tax holiday has been offered later in the year, giving consumers a tax-free weekend for buying appliances with the ‘Energy Star’ or ‘Water Sense’ label, as long as the purchase price was $1,500 or less.

Lawmakers say stopping the annual tax-free weekends will save the state tens of millions of dollars.

A Georgia law takes effect July 1 allows licensed weapons holders to carry concealed handguns on some parts of Georgia’s public colleges and universities.

Wesley Tharpe, research director of the Georgia Budget & Policy Group, has said the annual back-to-school holiday eliminates more than $70 million in state and local tax revenue. “That’s a sizable chunk of change when communities are struggling to fully fund their public schools or keep their local hospital from closing,” Tharpe said.

Other groups like the Tax Foundation say the weekends are an opportunity for retailers to hike up prices, preventing consumers from actually saving much money. The group also released data last year saying the weekends do not promote economic growth in states that offer tax-free weekends, but merely shifts when people go shopping.

However, Georgia consumers will still be able to find sales tax-free weekends in neighboring states, including South Carolina (Aug. 4-6), Florida (Aug. 4-6), Alabama (July 21-23), and Tennessee (July 28-30).

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