Shoppers readying for tax-free bargains


Customers check out iPads at Best Buy on Wednesday in Gainesville. Computers and Tablets are new additions to the back-to-school items that will be tax free this weekend.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 5:57 p.m.

Bo Mashburn was in Best Buy on Wednesday looking to replace his wife's laptop computer that had just stopped working, "but we're going to hold off until the weekend."

Facts

List of sales tax exemptions

http://www.frf.org/files/2013_sales_tax_holiday_exemptions.pdf

That's because Florida's back-to-school sales tax holiday runs today through Sunday, and for the first time this year will include computers and computer accessories.

No sales taxes are due on each personal computer and certain accessories used for a noncommercial home or personal use with a sales price of $750 or less. That's in addition to the usual tax break on clothing, shoes and accessories of as much as $75 each and school supplies of as much as $15 each.

The tax holiday saves shoppers on paying Florida's 6 percent sales tax and the additional local discretionary sales surtax in areas that have one, which Alachua County does not. Competing retailers also offer extended hours and additional sales that provide bigger savings.

Best Buy in Butler Plaza was working overnight to prepare its new Windows store to open in place of its computer section for an 8 a.m. opening today, two hours earlier than usual, said Calvin "Ace" Forney, home sales manager.

Best Buy has partnered with Microsoft to open the store within a store at larger Best Buy locations.

Forney said the electronics store is usually busy before school starts with college students buying computers or setting up dorm rooms with small appliances, especially during move-in weekend, which starts Aug. 16 for University of Florida students.

Back-to-college spending is expected to reach $45.8 billion in the U.S. this year compared with $26.7 billion spent by K-12 families, according to a National Retail Federation Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

That amounts to $634.78 per K-12 family, down from $688.62 last year, and $836.83 per college family, down from $907.22 a year ago.

The lower spending this year reflects a boost in spending last year as a result of pent-up demand and a growing population of schoolchildren, leaving parents with school supplies that still work and a shorter shopping list, according to the NRF.

Electronics makes up the largest portion of college shoppers' forecasted spending at $203.28.

Forney said Best Buy expects a significant amount of traffic for the first tax holiday on computers.

The tax exemption includes electronic book readers; and laptop, desktop, handheld, tablet and tower computers. Taxes are also exempt on printers and scanners.

Mashburn, 49, of Gainesville said his family is down to one computer and needs another with two children in school. They also planned to buy school clothes over the weekend.

"Tax-free weekends definitely matter to parents, I promise you," he said.

John Glenn, 57, of Gainesville, also was shopping for a computer to buy this weekend but said this one is for him, not his high school-age son.

"I hope Gov. Scott doesn't find out," he joked. "I'm not buying for a kid. I'm not going to school. I think it's fair that I should be able to get one."

The combination of back-to-school shopping and the tax break typically makes the weekend the biggest shopping days of the year until Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, said Scott Boyer, store leader of J.C. Penney at The Oaks Mall.

"It's exciting. If you love retail, you live for these times," he said.

Boyer said backpacks and school uniforms are the biggest sellers.

"We've got some great doorbusters. We've got coupons to drive the customers in. We're here early. We're here late. We're fully staffed. So we want to make sure that the customer gets taken care of when they come."

Boyer expressed concern that weekend thunderstorms could dampen shoppers' usual enthusiasm.

Otherwise, he said Saturday would have about four times the sales of a normal Saturday.

A couple parents were shopping at the mall Thursday to avoid the weekend crowds.

Tracy Vickers, 41, drove to Gainesville from Valdosta, Ga., with her 13-year-old daughter and her friend to shop for school clothes.

"I'm doing it today so we don't have to fight the crowds," she said.

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