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Retailers hope to reap gains from final appliance tax-free weekend

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  • What’s tax-exempt

    The N.C. Department of Revenue says Energy Star-labeled appliances including washers, freezers, refrigerators, central air conditioners, room air conditioners, air-source heat pumps and ceiling fans, are exempt from sales tax this weekend.

    The Energy Star appliances – which often cost more, but are more energy-efficient – must be bought for immediate delivery, meaning consumers who request delayed shipment are not eligible for the exemption. Business purchases aren’t eligible either.

    Ely Portillo



North Carolina appliance retailers are hoping to cash in on the state’s last tax-exempt weekend for qualified Energy Star appliances, which they say has become one of their busiest weekends since it was introduced five years ago.

From Friday through Sunday, customers won’t have to pay sales tax when they purchase energy-efficient washers, freezers, air conditioners and other major appliances. In Mecklenburg County, that means an extra savings of 7.25 percent, while shoppers in Cabarrus can save 7 percent and those in Union, Gaston, Lincoln and Iredell can save 6.75 percent.

“We’ll do four or five times as much business this weekend as we do in a normal weekend,” said Roddey Player, CEO of Queen City Audio, Video & Appliances. “It’s a big, big deal.”

Bill Pleasants Jr., general manager of Plaza Appliance Mart, agreed. “It’s always the largest event we do in the whole year,” said Pleasants. “It’s larger than Black Friday. It’s larger than Fourth of July.”

The final tax-exempt weekend comes as appliance makers have seen growing sales thanks to the housing market rebound. Last week, Charlotte-based Electrolux North America said the number of major appliances shipped in North America was up 12 percent compared with the same time last year.

The N.C. Department of Revenue estimates the appliance program resulted in $1.6 million worth of lost tax revenue statewide last year.

In August, the state held its final back-to-school tax-exempt weekend, which offered discounts on items such as clothing, backpacks and computers. That program came with an estimated cost of $13.6 million in lost tax revenue.

Both programs are ending as a result of tax changes this year passed by the N.C. General Assembly. Opponents said the tax-exempt weekends cost the state revenue and just shifted consumers’ purchases from other times to those weeks. South Carolina doesn’t offer an equivalent weekend for appliances.

Merchants said they’ll miss the sales bump.

“Hate to see it go,” said Pleasants.

Boosting sales

Over the past several years, appliance retailers have built some of their biggest promotions around the Energy Star tax-exempt weekends.

Player said the reason is simple: Stores such as Queen City can offer discounts equivalent to Black Friday or other big promotions but with the added 7.25 percent sales tax deduction.

“It’s hard to make up seven-and-a-quarter, even on Black Friday,” said Player. “Seven-and-a-quarter is a big deal.”

Merchants also say they’re offering matching discounts and tax rebates on many appliances not covered by the Energy Star tax exemption, luring customers to apply their tax savings toward making more and bigger purchases.

“We, in this event, sell more packages than we do any other time in the year,” said Pleasants. “They’re saving the tax. They can use the savings to put in a range” or other appliance that’s not covered by the tax exemption.

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association pushed unsuccessfully to keep the program past this year.

“As we communicated during the August back-to-school sales tax holiday, North Carolina may forgo sales and use tax on specific exempt items, but studies have shown that shoppers tend to use the savings from sales tax to purchase additional non-exempt items,” said NCRMA president Andy Ellen, in a statement.

Without the tax-exempt pricing, retailers say they’ll turn to other promotions to make up the shortfall.

“We want to make sure our state stays solvent,” said Player. “We’re sad to see it go. But the show goes on.”

Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo
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