Massachusetts' tax-free weekend arrives just in time for back to school

The 2023 Deloitte Back to School Survey finds that locally, overall spending is down, but Boston parents plan to shell out an average of $650 per child this year

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Do your weekend plans include shopping? They should if you’re looking to save some money on items you need.

Massachusetts' annual sales tax holiday is upon us and comes just as many parents are making back-to-school purchases.



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“Back-to-school invokes really nostalgia and family traditions and desire to really set our children up for success,” said Anthony Jardim, a principal in Deloitte’s digital retail practice.    “Those are some of the factors why parents are definitely willing to splurge if their children are asking.”

The 2023 Deloitte Back to School Survey finds that locally, overall spending is down, but Boston parents plan to shell out an average of $650 per child this year.

“About half of the parents say they are willing to splurge on clothing and technology and almost all of the parents plan, in Boston, to shop for apparel and school supplies,” says Jardim.  “That is going to benefit both Mass merchants and online this year, so we’re seeing kind of an even split there.”

But the survey found local parents are worried about a weakening economy.

“Whatever available budget the parents do have, they are going to be mindful of where they are spending that and how they are spending that,” says Jardim.

With the bulk of back-to-school purchases being made by parents this month, taking advantage of this weekend’s sales tax holiday can help stretch the budget.

The tax holiday runs Saturday, August 12, through Sunday, August 13.  

“An awful lot of snowblowers are sold on this weekend, believe it or not, in the middle of August,” explained Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.  “And a lot of paint is sold as well.”

Most retail items up to $2,500 are exempt from sales tax.

Exclusions include meals, motor vehicles, motorboats, gas, telecommunications services, tobacco products, marijuana products and alcoholic beverages.

“It brings people out when they normally would be at the beach or just, you know, doing other summer activities,” said Hurst.  “Bringing people out to shop when they otherwise wouldn't be spending, particularly here in Massachusetts in our local economy, that's what is  the biggest benefit of the event.”

Massachusetts retailers are hoping people will remember to shop locally.

“A lot of these particularly Main Street type of operations are still very fragile. Look, a lot of them were shut down during the pandemic or and restricted,” said Hurst.   “And then they had supply chain issues and then they had inflation. And ...although their sales are recovering, their costs are also going up astronomically, so if we can spend more dollars on our local economy, that gives these small businesses a brighter future to get into 2024.”

Layaway sales do not qualify for the sales tax holiday exemption.

Internet sales do.  If you buy the item during the holiday period, no sales tax will be due on the purchase, even if the item is delivered later.

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