Gearing up for tax-free

Published 9:42 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All right, shoppers: On your mark, get set and go.

The Virginia Tax Free holiday will begin this Friday and carry through Sunday. The holiday removes state sales tax from a number of items many shoppers go hunting for just before the start of school.

“This is the broadest of all the tax-free holidays and the one that everyone can take advantage of,” said Joel Davison, public relations manager for the Virginia Department of Taxation. “You don’t have to be on your way to school to get a tax break. So many people need to buy things and we’ve seen that the retailers really prepare themselves for this.”

Meant to help families save money on their back-to-school shopping lists, shoppers do not have to pay sales tax on school supplies that cost $20 or less per item, or clothing and footwear that costs $100 or less, according to the Virginia Department of Taxation Web site. Sales tax is generally five percent of the cost price.

While school supplies and clothing have no sales tax, individual retailers can decide to make any item exempt of the sales tax, but they will be responsible for paying the Department of Taxation. Davison said retailers will deduct taxes from more items because it brings in major traffic to the stores.

“It’s a pretty good tradeoff,” Davison said. “It’s one of those really true win-win situations.”

While families may be the ones saving, local retailers agreed they are the ones who are really benefiting.

“A lot of people come out on that tax-free weekend,” said Marilyn Skeeter, the manager on duty for Belk said in an interview last month. “We really don’t even have to advertise that. Everybody knows that when it happens, it happens everywhere. It’s a word of mouth thing that brings in tons of people.”

The holiday also can be a great break given the current economic downturn hitting the pockets of many Virginians.

“The citizens of the Commonwealth are savvy, and they know that the August sales tax holiday is a great way to put a little more back in the family budget,” Virginia Tax Commissioner Janie Bowen said in press release. “This has been a popular sales tax holiday every year since it was implemented, and I have no doubt even more thrifty families will be out there this year taking advantage of this opportunity to stretch their dollars a little further.”

Davison added that specifically families with multiple children can save a lot of money in a short time.

“It’s a very important time for a lot of people, especially in this recession, especially families with a few children,” he said. “They all need school supplies, clothes and shoes, and five percent off the total is a good thing.”

According the Department of Taxation, Virginia taxpayers will save $4 million in sales tax thanks to the tax-free sales.

“We don’t know, that $4million is an estimate,” Davison said. “It could be far more than that. There is no way to track it, but it seems to be very popular.”

Both Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and Suffolk Public Schools have uploaded school supply lists for the upcoming years to their respective Web sites. Visit either http://www.nsacademy.org/lowerschool/SupplyLists.html or http://www.spsk12.net/departments/pi/09-10%20NewsItems/09-10supplylists.htm and click on your child’s grade/school for the complete list. The News-Herald will also be running the complete set of lists in the Friday, Aug. 7 paper.