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by Brett Widness, August 3, 2010
Back-to-school shoppers can catch a break on sales tax by planning wisely before hitting stores. At least 18 states are offering a sales tax holiday on a variety of goods in the hopes of encouraging consumers to open their wallets.
In many states, sales tax holidays get under way sometime between late July and Labor Day. Typical merchandise covered by sales tax holidays includes clothes and school supplies. However, the tax break is sometimes extended to other products such as personal computers.
While a sales tax holiday is nice, it's not an excuse to wear out your credit cards. Here are a few tips from the California Society of CPAs on how to keep costs under control during your back-to-school shopping spree.
• Take an inventory. If you already have plenty of pencils, pens and note cards, you probably don't need a fresh pack.
• Set a budget and stick to it. More expensive items usually won't get the tax break, so that should help curb the temptation to splurge.
• Talk to kids about peer pressure. Take the opportunity to break the cycle of temptation and the "keep up with the Joneses" mentality.
• Contact your school for help. Programs for low-income households may be available to help with discounted or donated school supplies.
• Spread purchases through the year. Resist the temptation to spend big before school starts, when you may have to come back and buy more clothes and supplies in just a few weeks.
• Give children an allowance. Encourage kids to track their spending and understand making smart choices.
If your state isn't showing up on the map above, it's worth checking with your state or local tax authority to find out whether a sales tax holiday is in the works for another time. Some states, including Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon, don't have sales tax.
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