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Final tax-free weekend begins; retailers worry about future

Posted August 2, 2013

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— North Carolina's final sales tax holiday began Friday, offering savvy shoppers a chance to save some change on items ranging from school supplies to wedding dresses. 

But when retailers lock their doors Sunday, the tax break ends for good. 

The General Assembly repealed the sales tax holiday as part of a tax overhaul plan approved last month. The overhaul also brings to an end an annual tax-free weekend for buying Energy Star appliances.

Stores began offering tax-free items at 12:01 a.m., and the weekend deals will end at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Participating in the sales tax holiday is required; retailers cannot opt out. 

The popular event exempts from state and local sales tax clothing, footwear and school supplies of $100 or less per item; school instructional materials of $300 or less per item; sports and recreational equipment of $50 or less per item; computers and tablets of $3,500 or less per item; and computer supplies of $250 or less per item.

Basic eReaders, which do not provide Internet access, do not qualify as tax-exempt items.

Retailers say this is the busiest shopping weekend of the year outside Black Friday after Thanksgiving.

"I think people should definitely come out and try to take advantage of it because, unfortunately, this is the last one. I'm sure it saves a lot of people money," said Vicki Smith, who was shopping at a Target in Fayetteville.

Stephanie Rivers, a school principal and a mother, said she hopes to save $100 to $200 by shopping during the tax holiday.

Shopping generic Shoppers scramble for bargains in final tax-free weekend

What to buy on last sales tax holiday What to buy on last sales tax holiday

"It stinks," she said of the move to end the annual event. "This was a nice benefit and bonus for the citizens of North Carolina.”

A year ago, North Carolina lost more than $13.5 million in tax revenue during the weekend. It was one of 48 tax breaks erased as part of the state's tax overhaul.

Angel Simmon said she backs lawmakers' decision to reduce income taxes, even if that means scrapping the sales tax holiday, which she says doesn't save her much money.

"Not too much, not to make it worth that," Simmon said. "If they can cut this, I'm fine with that. That would be all right."

Kelcey Allen, a mother of a 6-year-old and a soon-to-be teacher, said she thinks the tax-free weekend actually makes money for the state.

"They're trying to make ketchup a vegetable. There are just budget cuts all over the place," Allen said. "I think they'll lose money doing that because people are going out, they're spending money, they're buying, going out to eat."

The president of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association said Thursday that he thinks shoppers will head across the borders to Virginia, South Carolina and other states in 2014 to complete their shopping lists without worrying about sales tax. 

Andy Ellen said Wilmington-area shoppers might head to Myrtle Beach, S.C., or Triad residents or those in northeastern North Carolina might go Virginia. He also said people could save the gasoline altogether and shop online.

"It's the only weekend of the year that the retailers are on a level playing field with the Overstock.coms of the world," Ellen said, referring to the online discount shopping website. 

Bill Wertz, a regional manager with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said retailers will have to be more creative to try and generate back-to-school shopping buzz in 2014 and beyond. 

"The challenge will be even greater for us without the sales tax holiday," Wertz said. "We're going to be challenged to keep our prices low because customers will need that more than ever."

Visit the Department of Revenue's website for a complete list of items included in the tax-free holiday.

225 Comments

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  • Deb1003 Aug 5, 2013

    You'd think the entire state of NC bought everything for the entire year during this past weekend. By eliminating this "tax-free" weekend we could pay our teachers more. Isn't that what we want? More money for schools and teachers? Tax breaks for businesses to keep them in NC, isn't that what we want... businesses to stay in NC and employ our citizens? And even if they have a tax break, they still pay taxes.

  • superman Aug 5, 2013

    Whether people have to pay sales taxes on school supplies or not is not going to affect sales. Parents will buy what the child needs. It was just another "welfare" program for parents just as the income tax exemption for children.

  • AlbertEinstein Aug 2, 2013

    The clear sensationalism and "attempts" to collect the masses is an establishment nuance.

  • miseem Aug 2, 2013

    Our "big oil" is big tobbacco.
    Barely
    August 2, 2013 4:33 p.m.
    You've got to be kidding. Do you really think tobacco is bringing in nearly as much money to NC as oil does to Texas? At one time, it payed a lot of the farmers bills and employed a lot of people in factories. Not so much now, especially the factories. Finished tobacco products have increased greatly in price, but it's not profit to the producers, it's the sin tax on it.

  • EnoughWhiningAlready Aug 2, 2013

    "VERYONE should worry about the future with Republicans in control of the state!"

    Yeah, 'cause Bev Perdue was such a stellar leader. Not.

  • EnoughWhiningAlready Aug 2, 2013

    Oh please.....you telling me that retailers are worried about losing one tax-free weekend in a year. If their business depends on that SO much they've got bigger issues that this. Sheesh.

  • melanie3 Aug 2, 2013

    "Final tax-free weekend begins; retailers worry about future" This is such a perfect example of what is wrong with us - what about the lower wage and struggling middle class families who wait to save this money? Blah.. why worry about the people when the corporations are people too..

  • TOMMYG Aug 2, 2013

    EVERYONE should worry about the future with Republicans in control of the state!

  • uncgrad80 Aug 2, 2013

    I love the statement that with tax reform, people will have more money in their pockets all year and won't miss the tax free weekend. Yah man-my $8.40 extra a month is going to make a big difference. What a deluded group.

  • BPractical Aug 2, 2013

    "The average CEO in this country is paid far more than he or she deserves. Just compare Ford and Honda: they both sell about the same amount of vehicles, but the former pays their CEO $20 million in cash, while the latter barely gets $300K in cash. CrazyDaveCA"

    Not exactly, but the point is still valid. The CEO of Honda made in 2010 around $11.1M. Assemblers in a plant I used to travel to made $135k back in 2004. Still, American CEO's are way overpaid.

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