Tax- free for all

Back-to-school shopping gets a small break from Uncle Sam

Six-year-old C.J. Hensel, of Bonita Springs, walks through a line of volunteers distributing backpacks containing school supplies at the annual Project Backpack event at the YMCA of the Palms in Bonita Springs on Saturday.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

Six-year-old C.J. Hensel, of Bonita Springs, walks through a line of volunteers distributing backpacks containing school supplies at the annual Project Backpack event at the YMCA of the Palms in Bonita Springs on Saturday.

More than 1, 000 backpacks containing school supplies await distribution at the annual Project Backpack event at the YMCA of the Palms in Bonita Springs on Saturday.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

More than 1, 000 backpacks containing school supplies await distribution at the annual Project Backpack event at the YMCA of the Palms in Bonita Springs on Saturday.

David Albers/sTAFF (3)
Above left: More than 1, 000 backpacks containing school supplies await distribution at the annual Project Backpack event at the YMCA of the Palms in Bonita Springs on Saturday. ABOVE RIGHT: Four-year-old Ramey Reynolds, of Bonita Springs, walks through a line of volunteers distributing backpacks containing school supplies at the annual Project Backpack event at the YMCA of the Palms in Bonita Springs on Saturday.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

David Albers/sTAFF (3) Above left: More than 1, 000 backpacks containing school supplies await distribution at the annual Project Backpack event at the YMCA of the Palms in Bonita Springs on Saturday. ABOVE RIGHT: Four-year-old Ramey Reynolds, of Bonita Springs, walks through a line of volunteers distributing backpacks containing school supplies at the annual Project Backpack event at the YMCA of the Palms in Bonita Springs on Saturday.

This weekend, however, you can slip a fast one by good ol’ Sammy. From Friday through Sunday, shoppers can buy certain items tax-free during a three-day sales tax holiday. And for the first time, personal electronics under $750 are included in the tax-free list. “It’s something that we at the (Florida) Retail Federation have advocated for for a couple of years,” said John Fleming, the organization’s communications director. “Georgia has included small electronics for several years and it’s been a success. You really need a computer for school these days.”

Of course, also tax-free are the traditional back-to-school items including clothing and shoes costing up to $75 and school supplies under $15. School supplies can be anything from paper and pens to poster board, calculators and even lunch boxes. A complete list of tax-free items can be found at the Florida Department of Revenue’s website: http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/.

Fleming said that the Florida Retail Federation expects to see an 8 percent increase in retail sales in August due to the tax holiday, which translates to about $400 million in additional sales.

At the local Southwest florida Target’s, shelves were being stocked with extra urgency in advance of what Human Resources Manager Brenda Cornier anticipated being a very busy weekend. Big banners boasting slashed sale prices on back-to-school items promised to further discount shoppers’ totals. A full roster of register and floor staff was set for the weekend shifts.

“We’re absolutely expecting it to be busier than normal; by the end of the weekend our back-to-school sections will probably be pretty depleted,” said Cornier. “As far as the electronics, we’re trying to beef up whatever inventory we can, but we’re not quite sure what the sell rate will be.”

While the deals are specifically aimed at students going back to school, anyone can take advantage of them. In fact, Fleming of the Florida Retail Federation confided that he was thinking about purchasing a new laptop over the weekend. Cornier of Target meanwhile, planned to pick up some new clothes she’d been eyeing.

“It’s such a tradition in Florida,” said Fleming, adding, “It’s been going on since 1998, and people really look forward to it. Stores compete for business, and there’s a lot of additional spending. It’s really good for everyone.”

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