School supplies

Students and parents will soon be seeking pencils, pens, paper, glue and more as children prepare to head back to school this month.

Local students will start school Aug. 13, but first they’ll need pencils, notebooks, folders and a host of other items—all things that will be included in this weekend’s state-wide sales tax holiday.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), back to school spending is estimated to reach $26.2 billion, down from last year’s $27.5 billion, despite an increase in per-household spending. Families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade are expected to spend an average of $696.70, up from last year’s $684.79. The new expected per-household average tops the previous record set in 2012 of $688.62.

“Consumers are in a strong position given the nation’s growing economy, and we see this reflected in what they say they will spend on back-to-class items this year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We’re expecting record spending and retailers are ready to provide students with all the items they need for a successful school year.”

Items expected to be purchased include clothing and accessories as well as electronics, calculators, phones, shoes and school supplies include notebooks, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes.

However, local families can take advantage of sales and tax-free buys this weekend, saving on the items needed to send kids back to school.

The state’s tax-free holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. According to the Virginia Department of Taxation, during the tax holiday, shoppers can purchase qualifying school supplies, clothing and footwear without paying sales tax. Eligible items include school supplies costing $20 or less per item and clothing and footwear costing $100 or less per item.

The sales tax relief also applies to hurricane and emergency preparedness items as well as EnergyStar and WaterSense products. Qualifying items include portable generators costing $1,000 or less per item; gas-powered chainsaws costing $350 or less per item; and chainsaw accessories and other specified hurricane preparedness items costing $60 or less per item. Also included are qualifying EnergyStar or WaterSense products purchased for non-commercial home or personal use costing $2,500 or less per item.

“The annual sales tax holiday makes many important items more affordable for Virginians as they get ready for the new school year or stock up on basic supplies,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “I encourage families in every part of the Commonwealth to mark their calendars so they can take advantage of the savings this weekend, while also supporting the Virginia businesses in their communities.”

In addition to shopping at the usual big-box haunts, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is encouraging shoppers to visit small businesses this weekend.

“The sales tax holiday makes it more affordable to purchase the annual back-to-school items, and also make sure you are prepared for fall hurricane season,” state director of the National Federation of Independent Business Nicole Riley said. “We’re reminding everyone that these tax-free sale days apply to small businesses on Main Street as well as the big box stores.

“Even if you don’t need to shop for school, you’ll still save money shopping during the sales tax holiday, and you’ll find terrific great deals and unique merchandise by shopping at your local merchant,” she added. “By making purchases at small, locally owned businesses, you’re investing in your community because those business owners often support our schools and charities and create jobs. This is a win-win weekend where parents of school children get a price break, and small businesses see a surge in customers who enjoy the freedom from sales tax, even if it’s only for one weekend.”

No matter where one chooses to shop, local students and parents can find supply lists online for each of the county’s four schools. For more information, visit www2.madisonschools.k12.va.us.

For a full list of qualifying items that can be purchased tax-free this weekend, visit http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/GetFile.cfm?File=C:%5CTownHall%5Cdocroot%5CGuidanceDocs%5C161%5CGDoc_TAX_6649_v1.pdf.

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