You can buy a new laptop tax free (in these 9 states)

A person working on a laptop with a cup of coffee.
Microsoft

Several states offer back-to-school tax exemptions that cover everything from basic school supplies to computers and accessories. If your state participates, you could pick up a tax-free computer, printer, or even iPad.

What’s the problem with tax-free holidays?

Various states have tax exemptions, periods of time in which eligible purchases are exempt from state sales tax.

Although there are a variety of types of tax exemptions – Mississippi has a tax exemption for hunting gear before the hunting season and Florida has a tax exemption for hurricane preparation gear – the most widespread use of tax exemptions focuses on back-to-school shopping.

In the United States, 18 states offer tax exemptions specifically designed to reduce the financial burden of returning to school in the fall.

While some states limit the tax exemption to things like clothing, footwear, or basic school supplies (or a combination thereof), many, in view of the changing needs of students, have expanded the vacation to include computers, tablets, peripherals, software and related accessories.

This means on a practical level that you can purchase products up to the limit value, typically $ 1,500 for computers and electronics, without paying sales tax.

If a state normally has 8% sales tax, for example, a $ 1500 laptop is $ 1620 when sales tax is taken into account, but the actual sticker price of $ 1500 during the holidays . Whatever your state vacation sales tax is, it works as a discount.

What are the rules for tax holidays for back to school?

An ad promoting Apple's participation in state tax-free holidays.
Apple

In the next section, we will highlight the general limits for each participating state and link to documents detailing the fine print rules for each. In general, however, these are the general guidelines you should expect to encounter:

Tax exemptions are open to anyone who purchases eligible items without any kind of application. You do not need to provide proof that you are a resident of the state, have a student in K-12, or are currently a student yourself. The only restriction is that items must be for personal use, not for commercial or resale use.

The tax exemption limit applies to the total purchase price of the individual item and not a portion of the purchase price. So, for example, if your state has a $ 1,500 limit on computer hardware and you buy a $ 1,600 computer, the computer doesn’t qualify for any kind of tax break. You will pay the entire purchase sales tax of $ 1,600.

Unless otherwise stated, purchase price restrictions apply to individual items, not the entire invoice at the time of purchase. So, if you’re buying a $ 1,000 laptop for each of your three children, the limit applies to the price of the laptop, not the cumulative cost ($ 3,000) you pay at checkout.

In addition to tax-exempt items, it’s common for retailers in many states, especially larger retailers, to offer tax-equal discounts on non-exempt items related to your purchase.

If your state offers tax exemption on computers, for example, but not printers, you may find that some retailers extend the tax exemption umbrella to include printers or other items in an effort to attract more customers during tax exemption. .

Finally, the tax exemption is not limited to in-person purchases at brick-and-mortar retailers, although the aforementioned umbrella offers are more common in brick-and-mortar stores. The vacation includes both physical retailers in a particular participating state and all online retailers registered with the state.

This means that if you end up buying your new MacBook from Apple, Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Wal-Mart, or elsewhere, it doesn’t matter if you buy in-store or online. The tax exemption is in effect as long as the product is exempt.

These states offer tax exemptions on computer sales in 2022

The table below details which states offer exemptions for back to school sales that include related computers and accessories. The table is organized alphabetically by state, with the name of each state linked to that state’s official tax exemption documentation.

State at your place computer Accessories
Arkansas 8/6 – 8/7 without limits without limits
Florida 25/7 – 7/8 Up to $ 1,500, it includes iPad and other tablets Up to $ 1,500
Massachusetts 8/13 – 8/14 Up to $ 2,500 Up to $ 2,500
Missouri 8/5 – 8/7 Up to $ 1,500 Up to $ 1,500; Software limited to $ 350.
New Jersey 27/8 – 5/9 Up to $ 3,000 Up to $ 1000
New Mexico 8/5 – 8/7 Up to $ 1,000 Up to $ 500
South Carolina 8/5 – 8/7 without limits Exempt when purchased with a computer
Tennessee 29/7 – 31/7 Up to $ 1,500, it includes iPad and other tablets Exempt when purchased with computer and total bill under $ 1,500
West Virginia 8/5 – 8/9 Up to $ 500, it includes iPads and other tablets No exemption

For the most part, it’s pretty straightforward with the exception of Missouri, which allows cities and counties to waive tax exemption. If you are shopping in Missouri, pay particular attention to the Elected to Not Attend section on the state’s Back to School Tax Exemptions page.

That’s all there is to it! If you are in a participating state or close enough to skip the border of one to do some shopping, all you need to do to save on sales tax is to purchase eligible exempt items during the above dates.