By Julia Brouillette (File Photo)
Local businesses are gearing up for Virginia’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday weekend from August 2 to 4.
During the three-day period, certain school essentials and clothing items can be bought free of state and local retail tax. Eligible supplies must cost less than $20, while clothing must sport a price tag of less than $100.
Some of the more common school items that qualify for tax exemption include binders, calculators, backpacks, crayons, folders and notebooks. Items that fall outside the tax-exempt list range from novels to computer supplies, according to the state’s guidelines.
The detailed list of tax-free items contains a few potential loopholes for discerning shoppers. For example, garments not usually included in the back-to-school category, like baby clothes and costumes, are eligible.
Meanwhile, textbooks are included as tax-free items, but novels and similar books do not make the cut.
All computer items — a list featuring compact discs and printer paper — are not considered school-supply items. However, some stores may include computers and other electronics in their sale.
John Long, president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, said that the tax holiday benefits local small businesses in sales as well as marketing.
“Any time there’s an opportunity to have folks come into your store, it’s very positive,” he said. “It’s just another way for [small businesses] to promote their products.”
The rewards extend to parents and students, who regularly take advantage of the tax-free weekend, according to Long.
“People always look forward to the opportunity and mark the date on their calendars,” he said.
Megan Podolsky, co-owner of 529 Kids Consign, a children’s clothing store in Old Town, said the tax break brings enthusiastic buyers and extra sales during an already busy season.
“We see an increase [in sales] regardless,” said Podolsky.
Why Not — another local clothing shop for kids — also anticipates more of a crowd over the tax holiday weekend.
“Since we focus on clothing for kids and arts supplies, I do expect that we’ll be seeing more people,” said a Why Not employee.
A comprehensive list of tax-exempt school supply, clothing and footwear items is available on the Virginia Department of Taxation website.