New Dates and Items for Tax-Free Weekend

The state's sales tax holiday is usually this weekend, but it has moved. The tax-free weekend start two weeks from now just in time for the start of school. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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The Sales Tax Holiday became law back in 1999, when lawmakers passed State Senator Rodney Ellis' $506 million tax relief package. Since then, consumers have saved $289 million tax dollars from shopping during the three-day holiday. Ellis says Texas has one of the highest combined sales tax rates in the nation.

"High sales taxes hit low income and middle class and elderly Texans the hardest, forcing our poorest citizens to pay up to six times more of their income in sales taxes than more affluent Texans. The sales tax holiday allows families with school-aged children to better afford the necessities of life."

The tax-free weekend covers clothing and shoes under $100. And this year, for the first time, backpacks are added to the list of tax-free items.

"It's a pretty good laundry list. I mean I was embarrassed, I think most of us were, that we left backpacks off the list. When we passed the bill, it's very difficult to figure out which items to cover when you're working up a laundry list. So we put in broad criteria and left it up to the comptroller to interpret our language. And it has taken since 1999 to get these darn backpacks included."

Ellis says he'd like to see the list expand again to include some items over the $100 limit, as well as putting some energy efficient items on the list to help Texans save money on rising energy costs. The Sales Tax Holiday starts at midnight on August 17th and runs through August 19th. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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