Tax-free holiday nearing

By Trina Trice

Pam Burke, mother of a 6-year-old daughter, plans to take full advantage of the upcoming sales tax holiday that starts July 31.

The holiday has been extended to four days which will give plenty of Georgians the opportunity to shop till they drop for back to school clothes and supplies, as well as computers and computer software.

Last year the holiday ran for two weekends: March 29-30 and Aug. 2-3.

The holiday, which began last year by former Gov. Roy Barnes, is supposed to boost the state's sluggish economy.

Retailers are expecting an increase in shopping activity and sales.

"We're really planning some substantial increases," said Billy Kendricks, store manager of JCPenny Co. Inc. at Southlake Mall.

The holiday comes just before students head back to school, Kendricks said.

Henry County students return to school Aug. 4 and Clayton County students return Aug. 11.

That's just in time for the parents to take advantage of the sales tax holiday, Kendricks said.

"It's perfect for our customers," he said. "(The holiday) will be significantly better than last year. We're already starting to see an upturn in our business and many of our customers would have already received their tax credit from the government.

"It's kind of like Christmas," Kendricks said. "I think it's a win-win for everybody."

Andy Camp, father of six children, isn't so sure the sales tax holiday is that much of a big deal.

Camp home schools his children and therefore doesn't see much of a need for the holiday, but could purchase extra learning supplies, such as pencils and paper for his children.

"I don't have any plans (to make large purchases)," Camp said. "How much do really save, anyway?"

Several stores at Southlake Mall, such as JCPenny, and Tanger Outlet Center in Locust Grove will have extended hours.

The sales tax holiday officially begins at 12:01 a.m. July 31 and ends at midnight Aug. 3.

During that period, certain items of clothing, computer supplies and equipment, and general school supplies will be free from state and local sales taxes.

The exemption applies to clothing and footwear less than $100 per item and to school supplies under $20 per item. There is no limit on the total amount of purchases as long as no single item exceeds the maximum.

For computers, however, there is a change this year.

Like last year, there is no sales tax on the purchase of up to $1,500 worth of personal computers and related accessories, but the requirements are different.

Last year, the $1,500 purchase had to include a computer base unit. This year there is no such requirement.

Eligible for the exemption, with or without a base unit, are such items as anti-virus software, cables, keyboards, memory, printers, scanners, personal digital assistant devices, Web cameras and numerous categories of non-recreational software.

If a single purchase exceeds the $1,500 maximum, however, a tax on the entire amount will be owed. Last year the exemption was for the first $1,500 of the purchase price, as long as the purchase included a base unit.

The state expects to lose from $9 million to $10 million in tax money from the holiday while local governments could lose from $5.3 million to $6.2 million.