Tax holiday to return August 3-6

LAWRENCEVILLE- In what some retailers consider their biggest rush of the year other than Christmas, Georgia's sales tax holiday is about to return with breaks on back-to school and energy efficient items.

Tax-free shopping starts at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 3 and ends Aug. 6 at midnight on schools supplies, clothing items, computers, computer accessories and certain Energy Star merchandise.

All qualified items are exempt from state and local sales tax.

This year, 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.

"Teachers often spend money out of their own pockets to buy classroom supplies," Perdue said in a press release issued Monday. "These gift cards are another tool to help our teachers with the important work they do on a daily basis."

Tax-free items this year include:

•School supplies up to $20, such as 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.

Opinions are still mixed about the merits of sales tax holidays.

Opponents say they are politically driven and a distraction from a real debate about sound fiscal policy. However, 11 other states have adopted them in the past few years: Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and New Mexico.

Although usually associated with back-to-school shopping, tax holidays now encompass other kinds of merchandise. Georgia is one of several states offering tax breaks on energy efficient products. Last year, Florida included hurricanes supplies.

"I think states are finding these holidays do help encourage certain types of spending," said Rachelle Bernstein, vice president, tax council, with the National Retail Federation. "Some argue it's just substituting one sale in a different part of the year for another, but the retailers say they're seeing additional spending."

On the Web: www.dor.ga.gov.