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The beginning of a new school year often comes with a list of expenses. 

But starting next week, there’s an opportunity to get a discount on many back-to-school purchases. 

During the annual three-day tax holiday held in early August, school supplies, clothing and computers bought within Missouri for personal use won’t be subject to state sales tax of 4.225%. Many local governments participate as well. 

Here’s what qualifies for the tax holiday and how to take advantage of it: 

When exactly is the sales tax holiday? 

Missouri’s back-to-school sales tax holiday begins the first Friday in August and stretches through midnight on the following Sunday. This year, that’s Aug. 5-7. 

The state first held a tax holiday in 2004. The following year, Missouri made it an annual event. 

Early supporters said it encouraged people to shop at Missouri stores instead of online. 

What items are covered?

Items exempt from sales tax include: 

  • Clothing with a taxable value of $100 or less.
  • Up to $50 per purchase of school supplies.
  • Up to $350 of computer software. 
  • Personal computers or related devices up to $1,500.
  • Graphing calculators up to $150.

For purposes of the tax holiday, clothing means most items intended for people to wear, including footwear, diapers and material used to make school uniforms or other school clothing. It doesn’t include watches, watchbands, jewelry, handbags, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, scarves, ties, headbands or belt buckles.

School supplies include anything used in a typical classroom for educational reasons, including writing and art supplies, textbooks, backpacks, calculators, rulers and globes. They don’t include radios, headphones, sports equipment, telephones, office equipment or furniture.

More complete lists of eligible items are available on the Missouri Department of Revenue website. 

The tax holiday applies to items bought over the internet and items that are ordered during the holiday but not delivered until later, as long as the purchase is complete before the holiday ends. 

Purchases need to be for personal use. The state considers it a personal use when teachers use their own money to purchase school supplies for their classrooms, but not if someone buys items to use in their business. 

Where does the tax holiday apply? 

For state taxes, the tax holiday applies throughout Missouri. But local jurisdictions can opt out if they still want to collect taxes. 

Jackson, Clay, Platte and Cass counties all participate in the tax holiday, as do Kansas City, Missouri, and its larger suburbs like Independence, Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, Liberty, Raytown and Gladstone. 

Some districts and smaller cities in the Kansas City area don’t participate, so you may still pay some sales tax depending on where you shop.

There’s no tax holiday in Kansas. An effort to create one failed this year, despite some lawmakers’ arguments that it would discourage shoppers from leaving to spend money in neighboring states that have tax holidays.

Starting in the 2022 tax year, teachers who live in Kansas can receive a tax credit up to $250 per year for purchases of school and classroom supplies.  

How much can I save?

The amount you’ll save depends on exactly where you’re shopping, as various cities, counties and districts have different tax rates. In some parts of the Kansas City metro, the total sales tax rate can reach more than 11%. 

You’ll avoid paying the state sales tax rate of 4.225%, even if your local government chose not to participate. 

That means that if you spend close to the $1,500 limit on computers, for example, you could save more than $60 in state sales tax alone. The amount could be higher if you also buy clothing, school supplies or software, if you make multiple purchases throughout the weekend, or if your local government participates as well. 

Are there any other Missouri sales tax holidays I should know about? 

Missouri also has a weeklong Show Me Green Sales Tax Holiday for new Energy Star appliances in April. 

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Maria Benevento is the education reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. She is a Report for America corps member. Follow her on Twitter @MariaFBenevento.