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Stock up: Last NC back-to-school sales tax holiday is next weekend

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  • Details about this year’s tax-free weekend

    Starts: Friday, 12:01 a.m., both states

    Ends: Sunday, 11:59 p.m. in North Carolina, midnight in South Carolina.

    Plans at some local malls

    Northlake Mall: Extended hours 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-0 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.

    SouthPark: Extended hours 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.

    Concord Mills: Extended hours 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday.

    On the Web

    North Carolina: http://www.dornc.com/press/2013/salestaxholiday.html

    South Carolina: http://www.sctax.org/Tax+Policy/Sales+Tax+Holiday+Information.htm


  • Partial list of items that qualify in N.C.

    • Clothing that costs $100 or less per item: Clothing includes aprons, athletic supports, baby receiving blankets, swimsuits, all kinds of boots and shoes, costumes (but not masks), diapers for children and adults, gloves, garter belts, lab coats, neckties, rubber pants and wedding apparel.

    • Sports or recreational equipment that costs $50 or less per item: Includes ballet and tap shoes, spike athletic shoes, gloves, goggles, helmets, life preservers, waders, wet suits and shoulder pads.

    • Computers, including tablet computers and netbooks, with a price tag of $3,500 or less: It also includes monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers needed to operate the computer when they are sold with the computer. (Buy those last items separately and you’ll pay the tax.)

    • An eReader with enhanced computing functions, such as Internet access and email, are considered computers and are eligible for the tax break. Basic eReaders are not computers and are therefore taxable.

    • Computer supplies costing $250 or less per item: That means computer storage media, including diskettes and compact disks, printers, and printer paper and printer ink.

    • School supplies costing $100 or less per item: binders, chalk, book bags, calculators, tape, compasses, composition books, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, highlighters, index cards and the boxes to put them in, notebooks and lunch boxes, sketch and drawing pads, notebook paper, copy paper, tracing paper, construction paper, poster boards, pencil boxes, sharpeners, pens, pencils, scissors, protractors and rulers.

    • School instructional materials of $300 or less per item: reference books, maps, globes, textbooks and work books.

    Partial list of items that qualify in S.C.

    The state has no dollar amount limit like North Carolina, but most of the same items are tax-free. Those items include clothing, accessories, shoes, school supplies, computers, printers, software, book bags, calculators, bedding, shower curtains and bath rugs or mats.

    Sources: N.C. Department of Revenue, S.C. Department of Revenue



Attention, North Carolina shoppers: The back-to-school sales tax holiday weekend, around for more than a decade, is ending.

This coming weekend, Aug. 2-4, is the final year in North Carolina for the tax holiday, which provides shoppers with discounts on everything from computers to backpacks to clothing.

There’s no change to South Carolina’s sales tax holiday, which is also the same weekend.

North Carolina’s change comes as part of a major tax reform measure signed into law last week by Gov. Pat McCrory. The tax overhaul includes a provision to eliminate the state’s back-to-school, tax-free weekend beginning in 2014. Also going away next year is the annual tax holiday for Energy Star-rated appliances.

North Carolina lawmakers and opponents of the sales tax holiday said the state lost millions on the weekend. North Carolina lost an estimated $13.6 million in tax revenue during last year’s sales tax holiday, according to the N.C. Department of Revenue.

But that state revenue loss has been shoppers’ gain. Retailers have been big fans of the tax holiday since it was launched in 2002. For some retailers, the annual event is the second-most profitable weekend of the year behind Black Friday, according to the N.C. Retail Merchants Association.

“It’s the only weekend of the year when we are on a level playing field with Amazon.com,” said Andy Ellen, president of the state’s retail merchants association.

At the Target store Thursday on Albemarle Road in east Charlotte, signs welcomed back-to-school shoppers and directed them toward sales of backpacks and pencils.

Stacy French, the store manager, said the store expects increased traffic for the tax-free weekend.

“Target definitely supports the sales tax holiday,” she said. “Losing it was out of our hands.”

Tax-free isn’t free

Tax savings will vary by area. Mecklenburg’s sales tax is 7.25 percent. Shoppers will avoid a 7 percent sales tax in Cabarrus, and a 6.75 percent tax in Union, Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Stanly and Anson counties.

Merchants say shoppers have come to anticipate the weekend, and some malls and stores even have extended hours and special promotions to generate more traffic.

Dana James, owner of Karrousel Kids, a consignment and retail boutique in Matthews, said the tax-free weekend is the official end of their slow season and a kickoff to one of their busiest stretches.

“Summer is dead, dead, dead for us, and so we’re very excited,” James said.

Legislators, however, said the reform measure and its sweeping tax reductions will put more money in consumers’ pockets year-round.

“This more than offsets one-time savings from things like weekend sales tax holidays,” Amy Auth, deputy chief of staff of communications for Sen. Phil Berger, who sponsored the tax reform measure. Auth made her comments to The (Raleigh) News & Observer before the bill passed.

Some retailers, though, said tax holidays might actually generate revenue for the state.

Ellen, with the retail merchants association, said if consumers head to stores to buy tax-free items, there’s a good chance they’ll buy taxed items, too.

He cited a study from Florida showing that the state generated $7 million of revenue based on the sales of taxable items during a three-day tax holiday in 2010, according to the Washington Group, an economic consulting firm based in Florida.

Ellen also said that many workers get paid for more hours during the tax-free weekend. Since 2002, retailers in North Carolina have added an average of 8,300 hours during the three-day event, the retail merchants association found.

Shoppers head south

Ellen said the North Carolina merchants group is working on a economic impact study similar to the one conducted in Florida. The group hopes to use results from that report to lobby for the return of a tax holiday next year.

In the meantime, some North Carolina merchants are worried about next year. With South Carolina’s tax-holiday weekend still in place, some expect shoppers to travel across the state border to do their back-to-school shopping.

South Carolina business watchers are already expecting more shoppers next year.

“Inevitably, residents in bordering counties – particularly the populated areas in and around Charlotte – will cross state lines to take advantage of the savings during South Carolina’s tax holiday,” said Lindsey Kueffner, executive director of the S.C. Retail Association.

Rob Youngblood, president of the York County Chamber of Commerce, said there’s a certain limit bargain hunters will venture for a deal. But he expects that Fort Mill, about 19 miles south of uptown Charlotte, and Lancaster County, just a few miles from Ballantyne, should do “extremely well.”

Observer reporter Caroline McMillan contributed.

Burley: 704-358-5085 Twitter: @dburleyreports
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