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Georgians get tax-free holidays again

By Johnny Jackson

The days are almost here when parents and teachers throughout Georgia will get a much-needed tax break on back-to-school supplies, with the state's annual sales-tax holiday.

Georgians will be able to purchase certain retail items tax-free. The sales-tax holiday follows the signing of House Bill 948, the sales and use tax bill, by Gov. Sonny Perdue. The bill continues the annual so-called "back to school" sales-tax holiday, as well as the annual energy-efficient-products sales-tax holiday in the fall.

The holiday comes just in time for parents, said parent Cyd Cox, of Jonesboro. It stands to benefit some parents more than others, however. Elementary schools within the Clayton County School System, and a few select middle schools, will be going to uniform dress this school year.

"The majority of the parents think it's a great idea," said Cox, president of the Clayton County Council of Parent Teacher Associations. "[The sales-tax holiday] can benefit parents, because we're going to uniform dress in a lot of our elementary schools. It will help with that and just getting school supplies, period."

Local retailers are preparing for the increased retail traffic in both Henry and Clayton counties for the holiday July 31-Aug. 3. "We do expect to have a big turnout during tax-free season," said Ken Northrop, store manager of JC Penney at Southlake Mall in Morrow. "It is definitely a huge draw. It's not going to rival the day after Thanksgiving, but I would say it's one of our busiest Saturdays throughout the year."

Stores will open that weekend with extended store hours, opening earlier and closing later through Sunday. JC Penney plans to have uniform shops set up in its girls, boys, juniors and young men's areas for school-aged children headed back to school. During the sales-tax holiday, the local partner in education will also give a percentage of sales receipts from uniform purchases back to education.

"Sales-tax holidays continue to provide Georgians with much-needed relief when purchasing everyday household items, back-to-school supplies and, this year, water-efficient products," said Gov. Perdue. "Past experience shows that retail stores will also benefit from an increase in sales, helping local economies to prosper."

During the annual holiday, Georgia shoppers will have the opportunity to purchase certain clothing items, computers and computer accessories tax-free. The sales-tax event begins at 12:01 a.m., on July 31 and continues until midnight on Aug. 3.

Several retailers have gotten in on the act since the holiday has come into existence. Staples, for instance, is hosting its annual Teacher Appreciation Day in conjunction with the holiday.

"A tough economy and tighter budgets mean teachers are spending more of their own money to keep their classrooms stocked," said Shira Goodman, executive vice president of marketing for Staples. "Teacher Appreciation Day is our way of letting teachers know how much they are valued, and to make it easy for them to have the supplies they need to do their job."

Goodman said that more than 280,000 teachers came to Staples stores nationwide to receive Teacher Appreciation Day gift bags during last year's promotion.

This year, the first 200 teachers visiting Staples stores on Teacher Appreciation Day, on Aug. 2 from 9 a.m., to 1 p.m., will receive raffle prizes and a 512MB Flash Drive. One location for the event is the McDonough Staples store, at 1772 Jonesboro Road.

The store is also renewing its Staples Teacher Rewards, in which teachers can earn two percent back in rewards, up to $15, when they spend $200 or more in a calendar quarter.

Other incentives with the upcoming sales-tax holiday are environmental. The state's fourth annual Energy Star Sales Tax Holiday begins at 12:01 a.m., Oct. 2, and continues until midnight on Oct. 5.

Water-efficient products with the WaterSense designation and energy-efficient products with the Energy Star designation will be exempt from the state sales and use taxes.

The sales-tax exemption is intended only for individuals and their personal use. It does not apply to purchases made for resale, purchases by businesses, items leased or rented, or items sold at sports facilities, theme parks, restaurants, public lodging establishments, and airports.