La. sales tax holiday exempts items from 4 percent state tax

Published 12:15 am Friday, August 3, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT— John Walter screenprints a Ferriday uniform shirt Thursday afternoon at Rhino Graphics in Vidalia. Lawrence Chauvin, owner, said they will be busy making the uniform shirts until after school starts on Aug. 10.

VIDALIA — Louisiana’s two-day state sales tax holiday begins today and offers an exemption of the 4-percent state sales tax on several back-to-school items, but Vidalia businesses specializing in school uniforms say they attribute expected higher traffic to last-minute school shoppers — not the tax-free holiday.

Shoppers can make purchases on “tangible items” today and Saturday free of the 4-percent state sales tax on the first $2,500 of each eligible item.

The exemption can’t be applied to cars, boats, meals, admission to events or hotel occupancy.

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The sales tax exemption does not include local or parish taxes.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Kim Bowlin grabs a shirt from the pile to heatpress a Vidalia school uniform shirt Thursday at Hometown Sports.

In Vidalia and Ferriday, shoppers will still pay a 4.75 percent local tax, which consists of both city and parish taxes. They normally pay 8.75-percent sales tax.

Holly Chauvin, owner of Rhino Graphics, said most customers think the tax holiday exempts all taxes and some need a brief explanation at the register.

“Not everybody knows that the local taxes still apply, so we end up having to explain it to everybody,” Chauvin said. “This is always a busy time for us anyway.”

Since the Louisiana sales tax holiday is always the first weekend in August, Chauvin said the influx of tax-free shoppers blend with last minute back-to-school purchases.

“It’s hard to say if they’re coming in just for the sales tax, because we’re always busy around the back to school time,” Chauvin said. “This weekend and next weekend will be our busiest times.”

But some shoppers do plan out their back-to-school shopping sprees based on the tax-free weekend, Chauvin said.

“We’ve had some people come in this week to scope things out and said they’d come back this weekend to get the sales tax deal,” Chauvin said.

School uniforms, clothing and other school supplies will be the only items exempt at Rhino Graphics.

The store will extend its operating hours Saturday, staying open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Down the street, Susan Myers, owner of Hometown Sports, also said the majority of customers she’ll see this weekend are stocking up before the first day of school on Aug. 10.

“A lot of people like to wait until the last minute to do all their shopping, so we’ll see a lot of that this weekend,” Myers said. “There’s a good bit of people that don’t know there’s still some taxes.”

Myers said all items in the store up to the $2,500 limit will be eligible.

“We’re doing the exemptions store-wide,” Myers said. “We’ve been doing that the past few years.”

The store will also extend its operating hours Saturday, staying open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Items that were placed on layaway or taken out of layaway during the holiday are also exempt.

Shoppers are encouraged to save receipts for school supplies, uniforms and educational equipment required by schools for possible tax breaks.

Those expenses may be eligible for tax deductions on 2012 Louisiana individual income tax returns that are due May 15, 2013.

To claim the deductions, shoppers must be able to claim the student as a dependent on a state individual income tax return, and provide documentation for the expenses.

The sales tax holiday saved shoppers approximately $3.55 million last year.