Tax-free weekends help parents stock up for back-to-school

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Children are preparing to head back to school in the next few weeks, and parents are preparing to stock up on school supplies.

According to the National Retail Federation, families are expecting to spend a total of $37 billion on back-to-school shopping this year, tying last year’s record-breaking number.

To help parents save, all three Mid-South states are hosting back-to-school sales tax holidays, which waives taxes on select essential items under $100.

“We do like to wait for that so we can make sure we get it at the right price, and it really helps us out,” said Memphis mother, Shey Lackie. “On our list is the pencils, the highlighters, the note cards, paper, notebooks, folders, because you go through those things so much.”

Another mom, Colby Midgett, added “Every year I have to get tons of colored pencils, tons of markers, tons of erasers, tons of number two pencils. They do wear uniforms and uniforms are really expensive for her school, so we take advantage of the tax-free holiday.”

The two parents said tax-free savings can really add up, especially with record-breaking inflation.

“We’re hearing that 68 percent of those shopping for back to school say that they have noticed higher prices, particularly on items like clothing, accessories, and school supplies,” said Katherine Cullen, Senior Director of Industry and Consumer Insights with the National Retail Federation. “K-12 and college shoppers will spend more per person this season than they do on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day combined. Families with children in elementary-high school are expecting to spend around $864 on the season this year, about $15 dollars more than last year.”

Shoppers in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas can save on taxes but there are some differences:

Tennessee’s traditional sales tax holiday on clothing, school supplies, and computers begins at 12:01 a.m. on July 29 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on July 31.

See the list of tax-exempt items, here

The 2022 Sales Tax Holiday in Mississippi takes place between 12:01 a.m. on July 29 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on July 30.

See the list of tax exempt items, here

The 2022 Sales Tax Holiday in Arkansas takes place between 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 6 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 7, allowing shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain electronic devices, school supplies, school art supplies, school instructional materials, and clothing free of state and local sales or use tax.

See the list of tax exempt items, here

“We’re seeing that the top categories for k-12 shoppers are electronics and clothing,” said Cullen. “Total spending on electronics is expected to reach around $13 billion this year and total spending on clothing and accessories comes in just after that at around $11 billion.”

“We know at this point that there is plenty of shopping left to do. On average consumers have at least half of their shopping left to do. Eighty-five percent are less than halfway done and most of them have not received their school lists. Retailers recognize the importance of back-to-class for consumers and they have been prepping for months to make sure that shoppers will have all the items that they need. We know that they have brought in items earlier to address supply chain issues and they’re focusing on traditional sale events for the summer.”