FORT SMITH — The second-biggest spending season of the year, back-to-school shopping, is upon us, and a tax holiday is set to begin Saturday in Arkansas.
The tax holiday, which cuts state and local sales and use taxes on many items, begins at 12:01 a.m. Saturday in Arkansas. It will extend to midnight Sunday, Aug. 3.
Online sales made from Arkansas are included in the tax holiday, according to Tom Atchley, excise tax administrator for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. Act 757 of 2011 mandated the Arkansas sales tax holiday.
Saving about 10 percent on state and local taxes may not be worth fighting the crowds for some shoppers, but for others it is a welcome reprieve that adds up. Michelle Leonard, a Fort Smith mom of two, says she’ll end up spending close to $300 or more this year on school supplies and clothes.
“With one in junior high, she’s the one who’ll get the most clothes,” Leonard wrote on the Times Record Facebook page. “Teenage girls feel like they have to keep up with everyone else. Thank goodness my son is not so hard to shop for. He just wants a cool backpack and cool shoes.”
According to the National Retail Federation’s 2014 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average American family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669 on clothing, shoes, supplies and electronics. This is up 5 percent from last year, driven by increased demand for electronic items and parents’ need to restock their children’s school supplies from last year.
The older the student, the more money to be spent. The survey found the average family shopping for high school students will spend $683, followed by middle school students at $682 and elementary school-age children with an average of $581.
The National Retail Federation survey of 6,178 people shows that 8 in 10 Americans are still feeling the pinch and continue to be frugal, with a quarter of those surveyed going so far as to make do with last year’s school supplies. A rising number of people say they’ll also shop online to save more money.
More than a third use their smartphone to compare prices, and a growing number of people, 22 percent, go on to make a purchase with their smartphone. This is up from 18.2 percent last year. More people use their computer tablets to shop online; 31.4 percent, up from 29.9 percent last year.
Amy Baker, bookstore manager at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, said the tax holiday pumped up sales at the campus store with between 500 and 600 customers last year, mostly purchasing books, but since then more shoppers use the website to get what they need.
“Everybody wants to save money,” Baker said. “The first year was phenomenal. The second year was great, but more people went online.”
A division of Barnes & Noble, the UAFS bookstore’s website is at uafortsmith.bncollege.com. Each day of the tax holiday next weekend the first 50 shoppers at UAFS with a student ID receive coupons on supplies.
Whether local shoppers are using their phone or going directly to the store in person the tax exemptions are similar in Arkansas and Oklahoma, with sales taxes remaining on clothes and shoes over $100 in both states. Oklahoma does not exempt taxes on school supplies or clothing accessories.
In Arkansas, the state and local sales tax will not be collected on clothing and footwear with a sales price of less than $100 per item, clothing accessories and equipment less than $50 per item, school supplies, school art supplies, and school instructional materials.
Some unexpected eligible items for exemption during the tax holiday in Arkansas include diapers, girdles, wedding apparel, umbrellas, sunglasses, bath salts, lip gloss and hair wax. A full list of eligible items is available at the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration website under the “Sales & Use Tax” section.