What to expect during this year's Tennessee, Alabama tax-free weekends

Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser via AP / Victoria Blocker shows a skirt to her mother as she shops with her family during the sales tax holiday at Eastdale Mall in Montgomery, Ala., in 2011. This year's sales tax holiday in Alabama continues through Sunday.


- Alabama: The state sales tax holiday runs through midnight CDT Sunday. The exemption covers clothing costing $100 or less per item; computers, computer software and school computer supplies priced at $750 or less; school supplies priced at $50 or less per item; and books priced at $30 or less. See the complete list at revenue.alabama.gov. - Tennessee: The state sales tax holiday starts at midnight July 29 and runs through 11:59 p.m. July 31. The exemption covers clothing priced at $100 or less per item; school and art supplies priced at $100 or less per item; and computers priced at $1,500 or less. See the complete list at tn.gov/revenue.

Christy Lindsey of Scottsboro, Alabama, said she hadn't realized the state's sales tax holiday is happening this weekend, but as soon as she found out Friday evening, she planned a shopping trip for her and son, Gunner.

Gunner, 5, will start kindergarten this fall at the Well Academy, a Christian home-school cover (an umbrella school that provides a base for various activities and services for home-school families) and co-op in Scottsboro, where his mother will be teaching third and fourth graders.

Shopping during the sales tax holiday is "something that we do because any little extra that we can cut here and there, because of how things are economically, every little bit helps," she said by phone Friday evening.

(READ MORE: With Tennessee's tax-free weekend, BBB offers tips to prepare for going back to school)

Some North Alabama merchants reported a slow but steady start to the three-day tax holiday, which waives state sales tax on back-to-school supplies, computers, clothing and books. Many cities and counties provide similar tax exemptions during the weekend.

At the Trading Post in Fort Payne, which is closed on Sundays, business was "super busy" Friday, as customers perused the store's selection of Western shoes, boots and clothing, cashier Tristin Prewitt said by phone. "The majority of the people that have come in" were there for the sales tax holiday, she said.

(READ MORE: 'We're all Bengals fans this Sunday,' say the citizens of Fort Payne)

At the Trading Post's Albertville store, which is open seven days a week, cashier Caroline Smith reported business as usual Friday.

"Typically, weekends are a lot busier than weekdays," she said by phone. "It does draw a few more people in being tax-free."

The manager at Hammer's Department Store in Fort Payne said a sale on select merchandise offered shoppers additional savings there.

"We have some stuff - clothes and shoes - that's 40% off," Cindy Caldwell said by phone.

Caldwell said Hammer's regularly draws customers from Chattanooga and North Georgia, and the sales tax holiday makes the trip even more worthwhile. She said many North Alabama residents likely would reciprocate when Tennessee has its sales tax holiday the weekend of July 29-31. The Georgia legislature did not schedule a sales tax holiday this year.

(READ MORE: Fort Payne launches first of 80 rapid rechargers planned in the Tennessee Valley)

According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, 19 states have announced sales tax exemptions this year. Almost all are related to clothing, shoes, computers and school supplies and are held during July and August when families are preparing for the return to school.

(READ MORE: One-time tax cuts, revised school funding formula among Tennessee laws taking effect July 1)

Lindsey previously taught in the Huntsville-based Madison County Schools and said she routinely bought extra supplies for children in her classroom who couldn't afford to get exactly what was needed. Madison County's supply lists often specified certain brands of pencils or notebooks. The Well Academy's is "basic stuff - crayons, markers, folders. Nothing too fancy," she said.

Still, seeing the supply list "from the mom side of things" gave her a new appreciation for how quickly the costs can add up for families with children starting school.

"I'm a teacher, but it kind of opened my eyes to a different perspective," she said. "Oh, wow, some of this stuff can be expensive."

Lindsey said Gunner would be on the lookout for "anything green - green pencils, a green pencil pouch. Anything green, that's what he goes for."

Walmart, Staples and Office Depot were among the stops on her shopping list. Lindsey said she was also looking for items for her classroom as well as miscellany for her husband Joe's business.

The chance to save during the sales tax holiday is "a great tool for mom-and-pop businesses," Joe Lindsey said.

Christy Lindsey said the best part of the shopping experience would be when she and Gunner returned home with their finds.

"It's always a special time to pick it out and go through it when you get home, seeing all the new stuff and putting your name on everything," she said. "It starts the excitement of starting back to school."

Contact Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6281.