• 57°

Tax holiday comes just in time to help with back-to-school

By By Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest Columnist
The unseasonably cooler weather that visited our state recently had, dare we say it, a touch of fall in it. The low humidity and the mercury not rising toward 100 degrees made folks think that summer was not long in staying, even though it is still July and we’ll see heat waves and humidity return before it is all over.
Even though we are in the heart of summer, parents all across the state have been looking to the calendar and knowing that the start of school is just around the corner. It is commonplace now for school to start in the second week of August, and some systems start even earlier. Gone are the days when school would begin after Labor Day.
There are many reasons for the earlier start dates. In 2006, the Legislature extended the school year from 170 to 175 days, a move intended to make sure our children received an equal amount of classroom time compared to other states.
State education officials say another reason for the earlier start time is because of federal regulations regarding standardized tests. Under federal law, schools that have failing grades on the tests must notify parents during the summer so that they may change schools. The reason why the state sets exam dates so early in the spring is to accommodate their notification schedule.
Local school administrators want to get as many weeks of classroom time in before these high stakes standardized tests, and that is one reason why the start date has crept earlier and earlier. Other reasons for the earlier start date are ideas like “fall break” and extended holiday vacation. The final outcome is that August is now a school month, not a summer vacation month.
Regardless of when classes begin, for parents, back-to-school means opening the wallet or purse to buy all the things kids need.
The good news is that this is the fourth year Alabama will have its sales tax holiday. This year it is Aug. 7-9. During these dates, state government waives its 4 percent sales tax on back-to-school items. The sales tax holiday covers clothing items costing $100 or less, computer equipment costing $750 or less, school supplies costing $50 or less, and books costing $30 or less. Pretty much everything a student needs for class will be exempt during the tax holiday.
Most counties and cities also waive the local sales tax, although that is a local decision. To find out if a county or city is participating in the tax holiday this year, and to see a list of exempt items, go to the Alabama Department of Revenue website at HYPERLINK “http://www.ador.state.al.us/salestax/salestaxhol.htmwww.ador.state.al.us/salestax/salestaxhol.htm.
The tough heat and humidity may yet return, but the kids will be starting school nonetheless in the next three weeks. Summer for them is fast coming to a close, but at least there is a much-needed break for parents with the upcoming sales tax holiday.