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No back-to-school sales tax holiday this year
Jennifer Tasso of Tampa, Fla., holds up a pair of shorts to son Landon, 7, a rising second-grader, as they shop for uniforms at the JCPenney at Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville Thursday. Georgia will not offer a tax-free weekend for back-to-school shoppers this year in an effort to reduce the states budget deficit. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Parents won’t see the back-to-school tax break that has driven summer retail sales for eight years in a row, although some stores are offering discounts to make up for it.

The state’s sales tax holiday, which eliminated taxes on school supplies, clothes and computers during the first weekend in August, was canceled this year because of state revenue problems.

“We’re taking away a lot of things that were nice to do,” Gov. Sonny Perdue said in March when he announced the canceled weekend event. “What we’re undergoing, just like all states in this nation, is really a government reset.”

Three bills in the Georgia General Assembly would have continued the tax holidays for school supplies, energy efficient products and water efficient products, but none passed. Legislators said the August weekend costs the state $12 million in revenue and the energy-efficient day in October costs $500,000 in tax revenue, which was more than they were willing to give up.

However, shoppers disagree.

“That’s kind of crazy. That’ll hurt the stores because it’s their biggest sales time other than around Christmas,” said Jade Parkman, 17, a homeschool student in Gainesville who was shopping for clothes Thursday. “I didn’t know about this year. I usually find out about it at the last minute and go shopping.”

Parkman, a shoe lover who said she would shop for “everything” during past tax-free weekends, said this year’s cut could especially hurt electronics sales.

“My brother bought a computer during a tax-free weekend,” she said. “People would buy then when they wouldn’t at other times.”

Carmella Henslee, of Clayton, shopped at JCPenney of Lakeshore Mall on Thursday with her rising third-grade daughter Angel.

“I don’t like the change. I think we deserve the cut, like the other states,” Henslee said. “It helps out families a lot, and I know some people who save up money for back-to-school shopping then. We used to shop that weekend every year.”

Last year, store manager Paul Shiers wrote a letter to Perdue to support the tax weekend. Stores increased shopping hours, stocked clothing racks and booked all employees, hoping the sales rush would bring them out of the economic slump.

Shiers said he was expecting a turnout double or triple past years because of the savings for cash-strapped families.

This year, JCPenney and other companies are trying to draw parents back to the stores, offering a 7 percent sale this weekend to equal the sales tax saved during the weekend event.

“We’re giving that extra percent off to help the customers,” said floor supervisor Denise Graham. “We’re really doing it as an incentive, and it’s the second or third one we’ve done this year to help parents struggling with the economy.”

Surrounding states Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee will hold a tax-free weekend Aug. 6 to 8, the weekend before classes start in Hall County. Florida will host one the weekend after — Aug. 13 to 15.

“As a parent of four kids, I would like to have that break,” said Jennifer Tasso, a Tampa, Fla., resident who bought clothes Thursday for her children while visiting relatives in Gainesville. “But if it helps the economy, I can deal without it.”

Because Tasso’s children are required to wear uniforms to school, the tax-free weekend usually didn’t help her much.

“All the uniforms are gone by then, especially specific styles, like tapered pant legs,” she said. “Sometimes, you’re just better off finding a store sale.”

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