What is a tax-free weekend?

Mom hugging her young daughter, both smiling, after they finished back-to-school shopping during a tax-free weekend Image: Mom hugging her young daughter, both smiling, after they finished back-to-school shopping during a tax-free weekend

In a Nutshell

Some states waive state sales tax on certain weekends during the year. Whether shopping online or in a store aisle, consumers don’t pay state sales tax on qualifying items, usually up to a max amount, during tax-free weekends. Tax-exempt items often include school supplies, but the list might also include other consumer goods.

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. Availability of products, features and discounts may vary by state or territory. Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about our team.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

This article was fact-checked by our editors and reviewed by Troy Grimes, tax product specialist with Credit Karma Tax®.

Whoever said taxes are a certainty must not have known about tax-free weekends.

Every year, some states give consumers a break from paying sales tax on eligible items, which are usually geared toward school shopping and emergency preparations. But not every state hosts one, and the time frames and the rules vary in the states that do.

Still, all tax-free weekends (also known as tax holidays) have one thing in common: Shoppers don’t pay state (and sometimes local) sales tax on qualifying purchases. Here’s some info about how tax-free weekends work.



What is a tax-free weekend?

The “tax” in tax-free weekends refers to sales taxes. During tax-free weekends, select goods are exempt from state (and sometimes local) sales tax.

New York launched the first modern sales-tax holiday in 1997 but has since replaced it with a permanent tax break on qualifying clothing and footwear purchases under $110. Since the ’90s, several more states have experimented with sales-tax holidays. State lawmakers pass legislation establishing these annual sales-tax holidays and set the time frames, tax-exempt items and price caps.

What items are exempt from tax during a tax-free weekend?

The types of merchandise exempt from sales tax can vary from state to state. For states with tax-free weekends, it’s common for school supplies to be exempt. Some states may exempt computers, while others include Energy Star appliances in the sales tax holiday.

Other states waive sales tax on some items you may find surprising. Mississippi exempted the sale of hunting supplies, including firearms and ammunition in 2019. During one of Texas’ sales tax holidays (it had three in 2019), the state allowed consumers to forgo sales tax on up to $6,000 of the cost of an air conditioner, $2,000 on refrigerators and on any amount spent on water-conserving products.

Learn about how sales taxes work

Why are sales-tax holidays important?

Sales taxes directly affect how much you pay for products and services. In 2019, 45 states and the District of Columbia had sales taxes. And some states also have local-level sales taxes in addition to state sales taxes.

A sales tax holiday can help you save money on items you’re already planning to purchase. Though you may not have to be a student or the parent of a student to take advantage of these tax-free weekends, many of them are timed to start just before the school year begins. That’s when families are getting ready to shell out around $700 for school supplies on average, according to National Retail Federation data.

Each state sets its own sales tax rate. But let’s say you live in Massachusetts, where the sales tax rate is 6.25%. If your entire $700 back-to-school bill qualifies as tax free, then you would save $43.75 during the sales-tax holiday.

Things to know about tax-free weekends

Each state decides whether it will have a tax-free weekend, sets its own dates, decides which items will be tax free and establishes its own policies, such as applying local taxes.

What can I buy tax free?

Head to your state’s tax website to read the fine print because what’s tax free can vary by state. For example, Texas hosts three different sales-tax holidays every year. During its back-to-school weekend, clothing, footwear, school supplies and book bags under $100 are tax free in a Texas store, online or when ordered from a catalog. But you pay taxes on items such as sports pads, ballet shoes, and soccer cleats, along with any exempt items that cost more than $100.

Massachusetts recently passed a law calling for one sales-tax holiday weekend a year — the first one was in August in 2019, but it offers one of the most generous price caps: Eligible retail items up to $2,500 are exempt from sales tax. Meals, cars, marijuana (which is legal in the state) and a few other items don’t qualify for this tax-free holiday, though.

Can I shop tax-free weekends online?

You probably won’t have to forgo the convenience of online shopping during a tax-free weekend. Check your state’s rules. Typically, as long as the online retailer does business in your state and you purchase qualifying items, you won’t have to pay sales tax. Some popular online retailers, such as Amazon, are up to speed on these tax-holiday rules and can automatically take sales tax off your eligible purchases during sales tax holidays.

How do I find out if my state has a tax-free weekend?

Check out this table to see whether your state may have a tax holiday. States establish sales-tax holidays through legislation, which usually specifies the time frame for the sales-tax holiday. We’ve listed those time frames in our chart and provided links to sales-tax holiday information on each state’s website.

Be sure to refer to the state’s website for the most up-to-date information for tax-free weekend dates and what items will be included in the holiday.

State Dates What’s included
Alabama
  • The last full weekend in February
  • Third Friday in July through the following Sunday
  • Severe weather preparedness items for the February holiday
  • Back-to-school supplies for the July holiday
Arkansas
  • The first weekend in August
  • Clothing, clothing accessories or equipment, and school supplies
Connecticut
  • Sales Tax Free Week beginning on the third Sunday in August and ending the following Saturday
  • Clothing and footwear costing less than $100
Florida
  • May 31–June 6, 2019
  • Aug. 2–6, 2019
  • Emergency preparedness supplies in May/June
  • Back-to-school supplies in August
Iowa
  • First Friday and Saturday of August each year
  • Certain clothing and footwear costing less than $100
Maryland
  • Second Sunday of August to the following Saturday
  • Certain clothing and footwear costing $100 or less
  • First $40 of a backpack or bookbag purchase
Massachusetts
  • One weekend each year (in 2019, it was Aug. 17–18)
  • Most retail items
Mississippi
  • Last Friday and Saturday in July
  • Annual Second Amendment Weekend sales tax holiday (in 2019, it was Aug. 30–Sept. 1)
  • Clothing and footwear costing less than $100 in July
  • Firearms, ammunition and hunting supplies during the Second Amendment Weekend
Missouri
  • Certain back-to-school purchases (clothing, school supplies, computers and other items) in August
  • Energy Star certified new appliances costing $1,500 or less in April
New Mexico
  • First weekend in August, Friday through Sunday
  • Certain clothing, footwear and accessories costing less than $100; computers (up to $1,000) and computer-related items (up to $500); school supplies (under $30) and other specified school items; and other specified items
Ohio
  • First Friday, Saturday and Sunday of August each year
  • Clothing costing $75 or less, school supplies priced at $20 or less and school instructional materials priced at $20 or less
Oklahoma
  • First Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August each year
  • Clothing or footwear priced at less than $100
South Carolina
  • First Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August each year
  • Clothing and clothing accessories, footwear, school supplies used for school assignments, computer items (including software, printers and printer supplies), and certain bed and bath supplies
Tennessee
  • Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday in July
  • Clothing priced at $100 or less, school and school art supplies priced at $100 or less and computers of $1,500 or less
Texas
  • Emergency preparedness: April 25–27, 2020
  • Energy Star: May 23–25, 2020
  • Back to school: Aug. 7–9, 2020
  • Emergency preparedness: Portable generators (less than $3,000), emergency ladders and hurricane shelters (less than $300), additional items costing less than $75, such as axes, batteries, first aid kids, mobile phone batteries and chargers, smoke detectors and more
  • Energy Star: Certain Energy Star–labeled items, including air conditioners (priced at $6,000 or less), refrigerators (priced at $2,000 or less), ceiling fans, incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs), clothes washers, dishwashers, dehumidifiers and programmable thermostats
  • Back to school: Most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks (for less than $100)

Bottom line

A tax-free weekend can help you save on sales taxes a few days a year. But if you don’t live in a state that hosts one of these holidays, then you may get a tax break elsewhere. For example, Alaska and Delaware don’t impose state sales taxes at all (though local or gross-receipts taxes may apply), while some states forgo state income taxes.

And remember, if you itemize deductions on your federal income taxes, you have the option of deducting sales tax you paid during the tax year (within limits). If you go this route, be sure to hold onto your receipts so you can document your deduction.


Troy Grimes is a tax product specialist with Credit Karma Tax®. He’s worked in tax, accounting and educational software development for nearly 30 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in business analysis from Texas A&M University. You can find him on LinkedIn.


About the author: Kim Porter is a writer and editor who has written for AARP the Magazine, Credit Karma, Reviewed.com, U.S. News & World Report, and more. Her favorite topics include maximizing credit… Read more.