We answered 9 questions about Alabama’s tax-free weekend July 17-19

tax-free weekend
Look no further than Mountain High Outfitters for backpacks, clothes and more and save 25% off select brands and categories this weekend! Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

There’s nothing more nostalgic than walking through the back-to-school aisles and remembering the days of picking out colored pencils, a fun notebook and a snazzy backpack in anticipation of a new school year. Whether you’re shopping for the classroom essentials or those days are behind you, everyone can benefit from Alabama’s tax-free holiday.

Don't forget to shop small this weekend with help from our Birmingham business directory! ❤️ If you own a local business, please add your information to our database. 

1. When is it?

tax-free weekend
Photo via alabamaretail.org

Participating counties in Alabama, which include Birmingham, can start their shopping Friday, July 17 at 12:01AM until midnight on Sunday, July 19.

2. What items are exempt from taxes?

tax-free weekend
Clothing priced $100 or less are tax-free all weekend, including these sustainable tshirts from Freedom Soaps. Photo by Hannah Chambley for Bham Now

This reference sheet is a helpful guide to what’s considered free of the state’s four percent sales tax during the holiday, but it’s not all-inclusive. The guide also includes the official definitions for the four main categories of exempt items which include: school supplies, computers, books and clothing.

Here are a few things important to note on prices:

  • Clothing must be $100 or less, per article of clothing
  • Single purchase computers, computer software and school computer supplies must be $750 or less
  • School supplies, art supplies and instructional material must be $50 or less per item
  • Books must be $30 or less per item

3. What items are not exempt?

  • Clothing accessories: Wallets, jewelry, handbags
  • Protective equipment: Breathing masks, helmets, safety goggles
  • Sport or recreational equipment
  • Any document printed or offered for sale in a non-bound form: magazines, newspapers, periodicals
  • Furniture
  • Any systems, devices, software, peripherals designed or intended primarily for recreational use: non-educational video games

4. What items are tax-free that I don’t even realize?

Several items are exempt from taxes that you should definitely keep on your radar even if back-to-school is no longer in your vocabulary or if your little one has a couple more years before hitting the books.

  • Diapers
  • Printers, printer paper/ink, and computer storage media
  • Artist items such as clays and glazes, paints, paintbrushes, sketch pads and watercolors (a.k.a quarantine activities)
  • Handheld electronic scheduler (except cell phones)

5. Does the law apply to items bought online?

online shopping
Shopping online this year during the tax-free weekend will be more important than ever. Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

Short answer: kind of. According the the law (yes, I read through it so you don’t have to), the covered item is exempt when, “The item is paid for and delivered to the customer during the exemption period; or when title to the covered item transfers to the purchaser and delivery is made to the purchaser during the exemption period.”

Basically, as long as you order the item and it’s delivered during July 17-19, it’s tax free baby. Also, important to note that, “Covered items that are pre-ordered and delivered to the customer during the exemption period qualify for the exemption.”

6. If I buy something and exchange it after the exemption period, do I owe sales tax?

Simon says…NO! As long as the item is purchased during the exemption period and exchanged for an item of a different size, color, or other feature no sales tax will be added to the exchange.

Or, let’s say you buy a Hello Kitty notebook before the exemption period, but the tax-free weekend rolls around you decide you’re over Hello Kitty and return it for store credit. That original sale is canceled and you’re free to purchase a new notebook with a pug on it sans sales tax.

There’s always a “But.” Say you buy an item and return it on July 20 in exchange for store credit and the original sale is canceled. You then purchase a different item with said store credit. Sales tax will apply for that newly purchased item.

7. How does the tax work on sale items?

tax-free weekend
Tax-free weekend is usually combined with store sales for a great three days of saving. Photo by Benedikt Geyer on Unsplash

It works in your favor if….

Those pair of jeans you’ve been eyeing are finally on sale for 10% off. Originally they were $110, but with the discount they’re marked down to $99. Since clothing must be $100 or less to qualify, the tax exemption still applies, because $99 is the new price of the jeans. The same is said if you use a store coupon toward the purchase of an item.

However, if you try to get a discount this way…

If a customer gives the dealer a manufacturer’s coupon for $100 for a
computer with a sales price of $850, the exemption would not apply.

8. Where can I shop local for things like school supplies and tech?

Thank You Books
Need a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” for AP English? Swing by a local book store like Thank You Books or order online. Photo via Lauren Moore for Bham Now

Local businesses need our help now more than everand the tax-free holiday is usually one of their best weekends for sales. Even if you’re not comfortable shopping in-store or the business is temporarily closed, most local businesses have set up websites and offer local delivery or curbside pick-up.

We’ve made shopping local super easy for you by putting together the ultimate database for different types of Birmingham retail. Search everything from electronics to art supplies in our local business guide and make sure to add yours. You can even find deals like this one from Mountain High Outfitters offering 25% off select brands and categories starting today through July 21st..

9. Who should I contact for more info?

Wondering if you can snag a discount on that Hydroflask? Find more resources at alabamaretail.org/ alabamasalestaxholidays. Or, call 334-242-1490 or 866-576-6531 Monday-Friday 8AM-5PM.

Now a question for you: Did you know this is the perfect time to give back?

Are your shopping needs taken care of for the year? Yeah, I blame the horrible online shopping phase I went through during quarantine. If you’re like me, the tax-free weekend is a great time to buy supplies and donate them to those in need around Birmingham.

Here are just a few ways to help:

Will you be shopping local this holiday? Let us know on social @bhamnow on Facebook and Instagram, or @Now_Bham on Twitter.