House Bill 796, sponsored by South Georgia lawmakers, stalled in the chamber during the 2018 session.

No back-to-school sales tax holiday this year for Georgia shoppers

When parents head out this summer to buy school supplies and clothes for their children, they will have to pay a sales tax on what they purchase.

For a second consecutive year, the General Assembly decided not to renew its long-running back-to-school sales-tax holiday.

House Bill 796, sponsored by South Georgia lawmakers who didn’t want shoppers to have to cross state borders for a sales tax break, stalled in the chamber during the 2018 session.

In Georgia, the tax holiday was started in the early 2000s. It was discontinued briefly when the state was feeling the crushing financial weight of the Great Recession and couldn’t afford it, but it made a comeback for several years before it was killed again in 2017.

Lawmakers have to approve legislation allowing them because one back-to-school weekend of tax-free shopping costs state and local governments about $70 million in lost revenue.

Both the conservative Washington-based Tax Foundation and the left-leaning Georgia Budget & Policy Institute have said the holidays are terrible tax policy, do little or nothing to spur the economy and often provide minimal benefit to shoppers.

The Tax Foundation put out a report in 2016 saying the tax holidays merely shift when people who were already going to buy back-to-school items make their purchases. The group also says some retailers raise prices during the holiday, which reduces savings.

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