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Get ready to spend -- state sales tax holidays are now

For many people, summer's end marks the beginning of the back-to-school shopping season. It also sparks a season of sales tax holidays across the country -- limited stretches of time where the sales tax is dropped on selected items. For those ready to shop, you'll have to act soon: many of the states' tax holidays are this weekend (see our list below to see if and when your state is offering this generous break).

If your state isn't offering a sales tax holiday, don't despair. Many major retailers including Staples, Best Buy, Walmart and Target all want to help you spend money by offering back-to-school deals. Staples is offering sales on school items and other discounts store wide, as well as free shipping for online orders of more than $50. Walmart is promoting sales on school items and free shipping on some online orders. Target is offering 10% off when you spend at least $100, as well as free shipping for online orders of $50 or more. A current promotion of Best Buy offers no interest payments for 18 months on purchases of $249 or more when using the store credit card. So if you live in one of the states that doesn't have a sales tax -- Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire or Oregon -- enjoy the sales.

Most of the time, the tax holidays are tied to heading back to school, but some states, like West Virginia use the holiday to encourage shoppers to buy energy-saving appliances. Be a careful consumer and check your state's site before heading out to shop -- some states, like Missouri are allowing towns and counties to opt out of participating.

Here's a run-down of the states offering a sales tax holiday this month:

  • Alabama: Fri. Aug. 6 through Sun. Aug. 8, no sales tax will be charged on clothing of $100 or less; computer packages of $750 or less; school computer supplies like software and printers of $750 or less -- non-educational video games will still be taxed; school supplies costing $50 or less; and books of $30 or less each. Be advised that every town in the state is participating in the tax holiday and check out the state's list before heading to the store.
  • Connecticut: From Aug. 15-21, clothing and footwear costing less than $300 per item are exempt. Store rain checks for clothing -- given out to customers when an item is on back order -- are also good for the tax holiday. So if something is sold out and you get a rain check for it during the tax holiday, you won't have to pay sales tax when the item is available.
  • Florida: From Aug. 13-15, clothing and books costing $50 or less and school supplies of $10 or less. Items bought at a theme park such as Walt Disney World, hotels or airports are still taxable.
  • Illinois: Through Aug. 15, clothing, shoes and school supplies costing less than $100 each.
  • Iowa: Through Sat., Aug. 7, most clothing at $100 per item are exempt. Rain checks and layaways are also exempt. Check the state's web site for specific types of clothing.
  • Louisiana: Through Saturday Aug. 7, the first $2,500 of personal items is exempt. The exemption doesn't apply to cars or meals.
  • Maryland: From Aug. 8-14, clothing and shoes of $100 or less are exempt from sales tax.
  • Massachusetts: Aug. 14 and 15, most items costing $2,500 or less are exempt from the sales tax. While beer, wine and liquor bought to be consumed later are exempt from sales tax that weekend, cars, boats and tobacco products are still subject to the tax.
  • Missouri: Through Sun., Aug. 8, clothing that costs $100 is exempt from sales tax. Also, school supplies up to $50 and computer equipment up to $3,500. A number of towns have opted out of participating, so check the state's web site before going shopping.
  • New Mexico: Through Sun., Aug. 8, shoes and clothing that costs $100 or less; computers of $1,000 or less; and school supplies of $15 or under.
  • North Carolina: Through Sun., Aug. 8, clothing and school supplies of $100 or less per item are exempt; school instructional materials of $300 or less per item; sports equipment of $50 or less; computers of $3,500 or less; and computer supplies with sales price of $250.
  • Oklahoma: through Sun., Aug. 8, shoes and clothing of $100 or less are exempt.
  • South Carolina: through Sun., Aug. 8, clothing, school supplies, computers and items including bedding and bath towels are exempt from the sales tax.
  • Tennessee: Through Sun., Aug. 8, clothing, school supplies and school art supplies of $100 or less per item won't be taxed; and computers of $1,500 or less.
  • Texas: On Aug. 20-22, clothing, footwear and school backpacks of $100 or less per item are exempt.
  • Virginia: Through Sun., Aug. 8, Shoes and clothing of $100 or less per item; and school supplies with a price of $20 or less per item are exempt.
  • West Virginia: From Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, West Virginia exempts household appliances that have Energy Star ratings up to $5,000 each.

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