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No, no, maw-maw: Michael and Kristen Buchanan were in Parisian on Wednesday with their grandmother 'Mimi' Wesley Zeanah, shopping for school clothes. All are from Decatur.
Daily photo by John Godbey
No, no, maw-maw: Michael and Kristen Buchanan were in Parisian on Wednesday with their grandmother "Mimi" Wesley Zeanah, shopping for school clothes. All are from Decatur.

A real back-to-school bargain
Sales tax holiday set Aug. 3-5; 'You get to take 9% right off the top'

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

Shoe retailer Jackie Handley runs a small business at the Decatur Shopping Center on Sixth Avenue Southeast.

Operating under the name Blue Ribbon Shoes, his business card says he sells "brand-name shoes at discount prices." But for one weekend each year, state and local officials offer discounts even he can't beat.

They drop the taxes.

Statewide this month, retailers, shoppers and students are gearing up for the second sales-tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers. Scheduled to begin the morning of Aug. 3, just after midnight, and continue through Aug. 5, the holiday had its trial run last year and most reported it was a success.

"It's definitely a positive for businesses," Handley said. "You get to take 9 percent right off the top."

Handley capitalized on the tax holiday last year, posting signs with tax-free logos. He also stayed open Sunday, when he's normally closed.

While he doesn't plan to stay open on Sunday this year, he expects increased sales and traffic as a result of the tax holiday.

Designed to provide back-to-school shoppers a financial break on clothes, computers and other school supplies, the tax holiday waives the 4 percent state sales tax for three days in early August.

The Legislature passed the measure late in the session last year. In response, more than 120 counties and cities followed suit, waiving 100 percent of sales taxes in many areas across the state.

This year, local officials are signing on for another year.

In Decatur, the City Council approved participation in the tax holiday during its May 21 meeting.

The move drops the city's 4 percent sales tax for the three-day tax holiday.

Mayor Don Kyle said participation last year had no negative effect on city revenue. According to the Decatur Revenue Department, total revenues for the month of the holiday were up 18 percent from the previous year.

"Even if you did have a little dip in revenues as a result of it, it's still a good thing to do for the parents who have these school expenses hitting them," Kyle said. "It's expensive to get a kid into school."

Also in Morgan County, the Hartselle City Council has approved participating in the tax holiday this year. City records show the municipality had a 2.8 percent increase in revenue during the month of the tax holiday last year.

In addition, Morgan County will waive its 1 percent sales tax again. When the item came up for consideration last year, the Morgan County Commission passed a measure permanently waiving the sales tax for the tax holiday.

In Limestone County, the Athens City Council and County Commission also agreed to participate this year. And in Lawrence County, Moulton officials say they plan to participate again.

"We're going to make it formal during our next meeting," said City Clerk Shirley Gilley.

While most local retailers reported sales gains during the tax holiday, many local computer sellers did not.

Mark Jones, an employee at Valley Computer Resources in the Decatur Shopping Center, said sales were not affected.

"A high-priced item is a high-priced item," he said. "I think it helps if someone is already planning to buy a computer, but people aren't going out buying computers because of the tax holiday."

Computers costing up to $750 are included in the tax holiday.

Included items

Scheduled for Aug 3-5. The sales-tax holiday covers:

  • Clothing and apparel costing up to $100 per item.

  • Computers, software and computer supplies costing up to $750 per item.

  • School supplies and textbooks costing up to $50 per item.

  • Other books costing up to $30 each.

    No breaks

    Officials at Priceville and Trinity said their towns will not offer a sales tax break for clothing and school supplies because of a limited number of businesses that offer the products.

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