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MomsRising: So long, sales tax holiday

Posted August 20, 2013

Earlier this month, the Black Friday of back-to-school shopping happened: The tax holiday weekend across North Carolina. As I waded through the racks of clothes with my fellow moms in search of a good deal, I wondered what that weekend - the very last weekend of tax free back-to-school shopping - will mean for families in our state.

The last weekend families could benefit from the extra savings the tax-free holiday affords us all was Aug. 2 to Aug. 4. The General Assembly passed a tax reform bill shortly before the end of the session that included doing away with the tax holiday weekend.

The loss was part of a larger tax reform bill that ultimately shifts more of the burden onto lower and moderate income families while giving cuts to the wealthiest in our state and corporations, according to analysis by the N.C. Budget & Tax Center. Families also will feel the financial loss of the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which has helped over 900,000 workers in North Carolina with keeping more of what they earn.

For families with school-aged children, this weekend often represented a time to do some back to school shopping. About 77 percent of those families report that the economy does impact their spending plans, according to a statement by the N.C. Retail Merchants Association. Pencils, paper, backpacks, text books, computers, shoes, and clothing – items that parents purchase to help their children start their school year prepared - added up to savings with the tax holiday. Now families will just feel another ding to their wallets.

Families in our state have saved an estimated $14.7 million during previous tax holiday weekends, according to the N.C. Department of Revenue. This weekend has been good for businesses as well, increasing employment and payroll taxes as more employees are hired to help meet the demand.

The tax-free weekend offered some relief for families who are already struggling. North Carolina maintains the fifth worst unemployment rate in the country. Unemployment benefits have been reduced and recently eliminated all together for 70,000 people. 

In addition to the loss of the sales tax holiday, the last Energy Star tax holiday will be Nov. 1 to Nov. 3. This weekend is also one with potential big savings for families who can buy qualifying Energy Star products tax free. These include household items families use and depend on such as washers and dryers, refrigerators, freezers, and ceiling fans.

Families continue to face a financial crunch in our state and it doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. The loss of the tax holiday is just one more way that the landscape of North Carolina is changing. Just like we sometimes feel when we’re standing in lines at the store on that busy tax-free weekend, all we can do is think “at least we’re all in this together.”

Melea Rose-Waters is a member of MomsRising.org and a Raleigh mother of one. MomsRising members write monthly for Go Ask Mom.

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  • 4Cats Aug 21, 1:49 p.m.

    Unless you are spending tons of money on supplies, the savings are negligible. Spend 1000 you save 70...if you have 1000 to spend, the additional 70 isn't going to hurt you. I'm just saying...it is 7%...

  • bethmessersmith Aug 21, 8:41 a.m.

    I couldn't agree more. It shows misplaced priorities by our state's leaders when they protect a tax break for yachts and eliminate the tax free weekend that families rely upon to help prepare their kids for school. Thank you to the teacher who commented about how educators also use this weekend. I've seen my children's teachers do this many times, taking money from their own families to ensure our state's children get what they need. I'm ashamed of the way our educators have been treated by our state's leaders. Our teachers and children deserve better.

  • pss3 Aug 21, 6:36 a.m.

    I would also like to add that teachers use the tax free weekend and sales to buy supplies for their classrooms and for students who cannot afford them. As an educator for this state for going on six years, I am making the same salary as when I started working but actually making less due to increases in health insurance and other benefits. If something happened to my husband, I would be forced to leave a profession I love and work hard at everyday because I could not support my young child on my salary alone.