Shoppers get a tax break this weekend

By Kathy Jefcoats

Georgia shoppers can save 7 cents on every dollar spent on sales tax exempt items through Sunday as the state observes the third sales tax holiday.

The holiday comes just as parents are getting ready to send their kids back to school and are expected to make up the bulk of shoppers this weekend. In addition to clothes, footwear and school supplies, computers and related accessories are also tax free.

The holiday should be good news to parents looking to help their kids advance as much as they can. A 2004 Back to School Computer Report released by the Consumer Electronics Association finds that 74 percent of all Americans believe it is important for children to have access to a home computer. However, only 26 percent of responders to the survey say that home computers are affordable for families with children.

But with the holiday giving shoppers a tax break, some may find this to be the best time for a computer purchase. Under the sales tax holiday law, personal computers and accessories are exempt from tax up to $1,500 per transaction.

Henry County mom Alisa Brown said she plans to take advantage of the holiday to buy an extra computer for her family, which includes Emily, 14, and Austin, 7.

"It is almost a necessity for kids to have a computer," she said. "Because of the research and the reports the schools require them to do. Having an extra computer will be very helpful in our family."

Brown said her job requires her to have a computer and her husband uses it often enough that the family needs a second machine. She anticiaptes that Emily, a student at Luella High School, and Austin, attending Luella Elementary School, will make good use of the computer this academic year.

Morrow Best Buy general manager Todd Vieu said the store expects big crowds.

"We expect the whole event to be exciting," he said. The store kicked it off with a midnight sale Thursday night – the time the holiday went into effect.

Nearby Southlake Mall offers extended hours during the four-day holiday, said marketing assistant Dionne Key. Stores will open Saturday 9 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Key said stores are gearing up for parents looking for back to school bargains.

"We did a survey and found that more than half of shoppers wait for the tax holiday to do their back to school shopping," she said.

The National Retail Foundation predicts families will spend 15 percent more on electronics and computer-related equipment than they did last year.

"Though parents will spend the majority of their back to school budget on clothes and shoes, spending on electronics has soared in the past several years," said NRF CEO Tracy Mullin. "Electronics have become more affordable for most families as parents continue their children's education at home."

Both Southlake Mall in Clayton County and Tanger Outlet stores in Henry County's Locust Grove are sponsoring giveaways and other prizes designed to draw customers.

"We're expecting big crowds," said Tanger Outlet general manager Jackie Sewell. "We usually have a wonderful turnout. The tax-free weekend is such a wonderful gift in itself but we're going to have giveaways and prizes. We hope people will get surprised and enjoy themselves."

Tanger Outlet will feature a live radio remote Saturday and several stores have special sales.

"Even the stores who sell items that don't fall under the sales tax law are having sales to equal out the savings," said Sewell. "We're expecting amazing sales."

Specialty stores at Southlake offer a free gift with the purchase of $125, said Key, and shoppers can register to win $10,000 in a money bag game. The drawing for the game will be 4 p.m. Saturday.

Armed with a school supply list, Brown plans to hit the stores either Friday night or Saturday afternoon.

"I don't expect to save a lot of money but every little bit helps," she said. "If the government is gracious enough to let us have it, we need to take advantage of it. Otherwise, they may take it away."

School supplies bought for classroom use or classroom-related activities are exempt up to $20 per item. Included are pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, book bags, calculators, dictionaries, thesauruses, children's books and books listed on approved school reading lists for pre-kindergarten-12th grade.

Clothing and footwear are exempt up to $100 per item, with no limit. However, single clothes or shoe items exceeding $100 will be taxed at full retail price. Accessories are not exempt. A comprehensive list of exempt items is available online at www.gatax.org or by calling 404-417-6601.