For some struggling families in Van Buren County, school supplies are just another financial headache that comes along with the flip of the calendar page to hot and humid August.
The first weekend in August is the annual Sales Tax Holiday, which allows shoppers to purchase school supplies and clothing free of state and local sales or use tax.
While the savings on basics such as notebooks and pencils may not add up to much to some, there is a need for the tax break in rural communities. The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services' Local Area Unemployment Statistics puts the unemployment rate in Van Buren County at 5.2 percent. Unemployment and underemployment are big words for children to understand, but the impact echoes throughout families and can been seen and felt by children and their school supplies. It's more than just pencils and paper to children: it's the tools they need to succeed at what is essentially their job; nine months out of the year, for 12-13 years.
The Formosa Baptist Church and First General Baptist Church are hosting a Back to School Blessing event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, August 5 at both churches. There will be free backpacks and school supplies, as well as food, games, and fellowship.
For those who can take advantage of it, the 2017 Sales Tax Holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, August 5 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 6. It is opportunity for shoppers to save money on supplies students need throughout the entire school year, not just the classroom supply list. For example: poster board and other art supplies for signs to cheer on the home team during ballgames or clay for making a model volcano for science class.
The tax free holiday does include clothing and footwear if the sales price is less than $100 per item, and whether it is socks, underwear, jeans, or shoes, students usually need something new at some point during the school year.
It also includes clothing accessories and equipment if the sales price is less than $50 per item. Clothing accessories includes hair accessories, cosmetics, jewelry, purses, and watches, something to keep in mind if the school year may invariably come with an uptick in personal grooming.
Even for folks without students to shop for, the Sales Tax Holiday is a weekend to possibly save a little money on pre-holiday shopping (clothes, purses, watches) or simply stock up on office supplies.
The Sales Tax Holiday doesn't help out with big ticket, college-bound type items. Computers, periphery equipment such as scanners or printers, and software don't qualify for the exemption and therefore cannot be purchased tax exempt.
All retailers are required to participate and may not charge tax on items that are legally tax-exempt during the Sales Tax Holiday. Arkansas followed the actions of several other states around the nation in when lawmakers approved Act 757 of 2011 to provide a sales tax holiday during the first weekend of August each year.
For the full list of what is included and what isn't included during the Sales Tax Holiday, visit www.dfa.arkansas.gov and search for 2017 Arkansas Sales Tax Holiday.
Related: Frequently Asked Questions about Sale Tax Holiday