Tax holiday gets under way

LAWRENCEVILLE - Four days of tax-free shopping begins today.

For the fifth straight year, Georgia is rolling out its popular sales tax holiday, which has been embraced by retailers and consumers alike. Once again it is timed to coincide with the back-to-school shopping season - a no-brainer given that recent surveys found $18 billion will be spent on school supplies, clothing and other education-oriented merchandise.

Families with school-age children will spend an average $527, up 19 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

This year Georgia also put more energy efficient items on the tax-exempt list. With temperatures hitting the upper 90s across metro Atlanta this week, retailers are expecting brisk sales of Energy Star merchandise such as air conditioners and ceiling fans.

Add computers and electronics to the most sought-after items, retail analysts say. In Gwinnett, where the sales tax is 6 percent, shoppers can save nearly $100 on a $1,500 computer.

Also, Georgia teachers can make purchases with their $100 Classroom Gift Cards, which Gov. Sonny Perdue pledged $10 million toward in his education budget earlier this year.

A closer look at tax-free items:

•School supplies up to $20, such pencils, notebooks, paper, book bags, calculators, dictionaries, thesauruses, children's books and books listed on approved school reading lists for prekindergarten through 12th grade.

•Clothing and footwear up to $100.

•Personal computers and accessories up to $1,500, such as monitors, personal computer base units, keyboards, handheld computers, monitors, printers and modems.

•Energy Star qualified merchandise up to $1,500, such as windows, doors, dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, fluorescent light bulbs, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats and refrigerators.

It appears this will be busy weekend for Georgia retailers. Many already count on the sales tax holiday to generate the biggest rush this side of the Christmas holidays, but a recent National Retail Federation survey also said the South is expected to be one of the regions where back-to-school expenditures rise.