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Shoppers leave Hamilton Place with bags of clothing for a new school year during a previous tax-free weekend. / Staff file photo by Tim Barber

Computers up to $3,000 and clothing up to $200 will get the tax-free weekend treatment in Tennessee beginning Friday — double the price of items typically eligible for the back-to-school cost break.

Lawmakers also added a 2020-only tax-free weekend for dine-in and carryout restaurant meals that begins Friday, Aug. 7.

"The sales tax holidays are an opportunity for families to save money and support the economy, and both online shopping and restaurant takeout purchases are included," said Samantha Singer, public information officer for the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

The tax-free weekend comes as families are preparing for an uncertain back-to-school experience during the coronavirus pandemic. The National Retail Federation expects record spending driven by a boom in online learning.

Among families with children in kindergarten through high school, 63% expect to buy computers and other electronics this year, up from 54% last year, according to survey results from the National Retail Federation.

Total spending for K-12 and college combined is projected to reach $101.6 billion, exceeding last year's $80.7 billion and topping the $100 billion mark for the first time. The vast majority of consumers — 88 percent — say the coronavirus will affect their back-to-class shopping in some form this year, with 43 percent planning to shop more online.

"With consumers cautious about how much time they spend out in public, there is likely to be less going store-to-store to comparison shop this year," Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said.

Foot traffic is down as people socially distance, and the shoppers who do visit tend to be making quicker, more focused trips, said Stacey Keating, spokeswoman for CBL Properties, which owns Hamilton Place and Northgate malls.

"We expect tax-free weekend to be consistent with what we've seen since reopening, which is that traffic is still rebounding but retailers are reporting that conversion is up," she said. "Customers that visit the mall are doing so with the intent to purchase."

Hamilton Place will extend its hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Keating said. The mall has been operating from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the pandemic. Many retailers have struggled to stay in business as the pandemic has driven record unemployment and kept people home.

Sales tax holidays

Clothing and school supplies are tax-free in Tennessee beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 31, and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 2. Items can be purchased online or in stores.

Dine-in and carryout restaurant meals are tax-free in Tennessee beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 9.

What’s not taxed?

Friday, July 31-Sunday, Aug. 2

* General apparel that costs $200 or less per item, such as shirts, pants, socks, shoes, dresses, etc.

* School and art supplies with a purchase price of $200 or less per item, such as binders, books, backpacks, crayons, paper, pens, pencils, and rulers, and art supplies such as glazes, clay, paints, drawing pads, and artist paintbrushes

* Computers for personal use with a purchase price of $3,000 or less

* Tablets, smart phones and electronic readers with a purchase price of $3,000 or less

* Televisions and video game consoles with a purchase price of $3,000 or less

Friday, Aug. 7-Sunday, Aug. 9

* The retail sale of food and drink by restaurants and limited service restaurants.

"Customers are likely to take advantage of curbside pick-up options that many retailers quickly implemented at the outset of COVID, a trend that has shown no signs of slowing down as retailers and malls have reopened to foot traffic," Keating said.

The tax-free weekend typically costs the state about $10 million in lost revenue, Singer said. The economic slowdown fueled by the pandemic cut Tennessee tax revenue collections in May by nearly $200 million, or more than 15.8% below a year ago.

Georgia hasn't had a tax-free weekend since 2016, while Alabama had one the weekend of July 17.

Tennessee's additional, restaurant-specific sales tax holiday in August gives people another opportunity to help local businesses impacted by the pandemic, said Jim Brown, Tennessee director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

"This has been a challenging spring and summer for local stores and restaurants," Brown said. "Local merchants struggling to recover from the economic shutdown are having to send additional dollars on equipment and supplies to help protect customers and employees from the coronavirus."

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter @maryfortune.

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