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Illinois Tries Sales Tax Holiday for School Supplies

August 9, 2010

For the first time ever, the state of Illinois is introducing a sales tax holiday for school supplies, and that should be a boon for not only students and their parents, but for teachers as well.

The 10-day sales tax holiday on school supplies kicked off on Friday and lasts until Aug. 15. The tax reprieve won praise from the Illinois Education Association, which noted statistics from the National Education Association showing that teachers spend an average of nearly $1,400 a year out of their own pockets on school supplies for their classrooms. New teachers on average spend $770 on classroom supplies, while veteran teachers spend $395. On top of that, teachers spend an average of $962 per year on additional materials for their classrooms.

The sales tax may seem like a drop in the bucket considering how much money teachers are laying out for their students. But these days they can’t even count on a tax deduction for their classroom expenses, with the Senate having failed so far to pass the tax extenders legislation, which included a tax credit of up to $250 for teachers who pay for supplies out of their own pockets.

Illinois isn’t the only state with a back-to-school sales tax holiday of course. But most of the other states that offer such holidays restrict the items to clothing and footwear, but a few do allow some purchases of school supplies.

Earlier this month, Alabama, for example, allowed noncommercial purchases of school supplies, school art supplies and school instructional materials with sales price of $50 or less per item; and noncommercial book purchases with sales price of $30 or less per book were exempt from taxes, according to a recent report from CCH. Missouri also allowed tax-free purchases of school supplies up to $50 per purchase. And Florida will allow until Aug. 15 a sales tax holiday on school supplies with a sales price of $10 or less per item.

The Illinois Department of Revenue has a list of the qualifying items and rules here. In these difficult economic times, any money that can be saved on necessary back-to-school items will be welcome news for parents and retailers, if not always for the state treasurers.

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