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Sales tax break drives shoppers to stores

Shoppers piled into stores Friday to take advantage of one of North Carolina's newest back-to-school traditions - a weekend holiday from paying sales taxes.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina students started their homework Friday by checking items off the back-to-school supplies list.

Parents and children crowded stores Friday on the start of the annual sales tax holiday weekend. From 12:01 a.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, shoppers won't have to pay sales tax on clothing, shoes, school supplies, sports equipment, computers and computer accessories.

"In this time, when everybody is challenged to make every little dime stretch, we came out just so we wouldn't have to pay any more taxes," shopper Janet Thompson said.

Jackson Mays drove from Fayetteville to Cary to cruise the aisles of Target to look for books, notebooks and paper for his school-age daughter.

"When you save money anywhere, it's a great help," Mays said.

Using a fifth-grade classroom supply list from Wake County, a shopper would save $2.90 on $43.29 of products.

Some shoppers said that difference alone isn't enough to make them pull out their wallets.

"Even with school supplies, I look at the coupons and the sales," shopper Kristen Braxton said. "Just the tax-free isn't enough. It's got to be more."

The state Department of Revenue expects shoppers to save $14.5 million this weekend. That's down from last year, because the state sales tax dropped by a penny July 1, to 4.75 percent. Including local sales tax, shoppers usually pay from 6.75 percent to 7.25 percent in taxes.

The General Assembly adopted the sales tax holiday weekend several years ago in hopes of stimulating the economy.

Some lawmakers, however, question the need for it in light of tough economic times, saying the state loses revenue because of the event.

"I would say probably postpone the program for the short term and evaluate it," Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, said. "What does it mean for the economy of the state versus what does it mean for the loss of revenue? If it's more loss of revenue than gain, we ought not to continue the program."

People shopping Friday morning said they oppose that idea.

"The way the economy is right now, I think it's still a good idea to have a tax-free weekend for North Carolina," one shopper said.

Another said she depends on it.

"We low-income families, we just can't really do without having this tax-free weekend," she said. "We're on a budget, especially single parents like me. We need this weekend in order to get the stuff we need for our children, so they can have a good education."


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