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Tax-free sales start Thursday
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During a time when every penny counts and economics are on consumer’s minds, Georgia’s seventh annual Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday is providing some financial relief to those gearing up for the fast-approaching school year.  
The purpose of the holiday, which begins at 12:01 a.m. July 31 and lasts until midnight Aug. 3, is to ease expenses for shoppers as they purchase important, school-related items such as computers, school uniforms, shoes and other school related supplies.
“I encourage parents, students and teachers to take advantage of this weekend’s sales tax holiday to purchase those much-needed supplies,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue in a press release.
However, before filling up their shopping carts, consumers should be aware of some stipulations and regulations. For example, each item of clothing or footwear must remain under $100 to be eligible for tax exemption. And accessories such as purses, watches, jewelry and hats aren’t exempt under any circumstance.
A few local clothing stores are further helping customers by holding sales on top of the tax-free discount. Patricia Jones, Beall’s Outlet store manager, said that in honor of the event, Beall’s is hosting a sidewalk sale for which some clothing has been marked down to clearance prices.
Similarly, school supplies listed under $20 are approved for exemption. This includes writing utensils, notebooks, dictionaries, some children’s books and other required supplies. Single items costing more than $20 will include tax.
A local business specializing in school supplies is VIP Office Furniture and Supply, located on Memorial Drive. After being open for 33 years, the store, owned by long-time resident Diane Horton, is getting ready for yet another busy school year.
Cathy O’Hagan, retail operations executive for VIP, said they have made special preparations for the big weekend in order to help people take advantage of tax-free deals.
“We’re expanding our educational supplies to include more teacher and student materials. We’ve got everything from bulletin board materials to student workbooks,” O’ Hagan said. “The majority of our store will be tax-free.”
Slightly different from the first two rules, the last major requirement pertains to one of the most necessary, popular and valuable back-to-school items — personal computers. In order to be approved for exemption, the total amount of the transaction (which includes both the computer and any accessories) can’t exceed  $1,500 all together.
“Generally, people go for the supplies — pencils, pens, notebooks,” said Wally Davidson, Wal-Mart store manager. “But a lot of people take advantage of high dollar items like computers.” Many computer accessories also fit into exemption guidelines including scanners, printers, printer cartridges, and a few programs such as word-processing and anti-virus software.
With a wide variety of different items to choose from, Davidson expects another large influx of customers this year. “It’s a good opportunity for everyone with all the challenges in the economy right now,” said Davidson, who is glad his patrons have this opportunity to save money. “It’s definitely a positive for the customers.”
But those eager to save big and avoid getting stuck with picked-through leftovers should act early if they can because participating stores get very busy during the tax-free weekend. “Usually the first few days are really big,” Davidson said.

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