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Attention Shoppers: The Tax-Free Weekends Are Here

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Here's where, and on what, you can save.

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Growing up in North Carolina, when my family needed to buy a computer, we always did it over the tax-free weekend of August 2-4.

That's a tradition a number of families will be looking to repeat in a few days. Along with North Carolina, the states of Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana include computers in their tax-free weekend. For example, if you're in North Carolina and looking to upgrade your desktop to a 27-inch Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iMac, you'll pay $1,799.00 as it is listed, not $1,939.42. The savings of $139.42 is not huge, but noteworthy.

Reminiscing about back-to-school shopping weekends with my co-workers, I related a story of buying a laptop during the first weekend of August, but most of them had no idea that tax-free weekends existed. The tax-free holiday is a little different from state to state, and some states, like New York, where I work, do not do tax-free at all.

And so, with August and back-to-school shopping fast approaching, this is Minyanville's guide to tax-free weekends.

Twelve states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia -- customarily set aside the first weekend of August for tax-free sales of clothing, school supplies, and computers, though not all of those items are tax-free in all 12 of the states. For example, Oklahoma only sells clothing tax-free for the weekend.

Georgia, Massachusetts, and Texas will wait for the second weekend of August, with the latter being notable as the only state to sell health and beauty-aid products tax-free for the weekend. Maryland has August 11-17 set as its tax-free holiday this year, selling clothing and footwear without sales tax. Connecticut joins the party for the third full week of August, this year on Sunday, August 18 through Saturday, August 24. Like Oklahoma and Maryland, that tax holiday will apply only to clothing, and to items less than $300.

Louisiana already had one tax-free weekend, May 25 and 26, when consumers could buy hurricane-preparedness supplies such as flashlights, candles, and batteries without paying a tax. Alabama also held a tax-free weekend for hurricane supplies from February 22 to 24.

The first weekend of August marks Louisiana's second tax-free weekend, and consumers in the state will pay no taxes on non-business purchases of any items under $2,500, excluding automobiles. Louisiana allows the broadest amount of tax-free items.

That said, there are five states (Alabama, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon) that do not impose general sales tax at all, though they have specific excise taxes for goods such as gasoline, tobacco products, and alcohol.

DC will not be having any tax-free weekends, and it hasn't since 2010 when the Sales Tax Holidays were repealed to avoid the loss of an estimated $640,000 in revenue. Before 2010, DC scheduled nine days in either August or November as tax holidays.

In July 2010, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago published a report called, "The Effect of Sales Tax Holidays on Household Consumption Patterns," which found that households buy 49% more clothing on tax holidays than on average. Moreover, the majority of that spending goes to clothing for children: In households with married parents and young children, the amount spent on clothing increases by 117%, and for shoes, the increase is a huge 295%.

According to another survey, this one from the National Retail Federation, the average family will spend an average of $634.78 on clothing, shoes, school supplies, and electronics in the back-to-school shopping period in 2013, which is actually down from last year's $688.62. Based on this estimate, average savings in North Carolina -- where the sales tax rate can reach 7.75% (state + local tax) -- will be $49.20. Of course, that's not a huge amount of money, but if you need to do shopping before school begins, or even just need to update your wardrobe, why not save a bit?

For a detailed list of the states offering tax-free holidays in 2013, click here.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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