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10th year for annual Arkansas sales tax holiday weekend

A child looks at art supplies at a Five Below store in Texarkana, Texas. Such supplies can be bought this weekend in Arkansas without state and local sales taxes being imposed.
Michael Hibblen
A child looks at art supplies at a Five Below store in Texarkana, Texas. Such supplies can be bought this weekend in Arkansas without state and local sales taxes being imposed.

Arkansas’ annual sales tax holiday will be this weekend for school supplies, instructional materials, clothing and some electronics.

It’s the 10th year for the event since being created by the state legislature in 2011 in an effort to help parents before the start of each new school year. The legislature estimates that this year, families will spend more than $600 during back-to-school shopping. But there are no requirements that merchandise be for education-related purposes.

Beginning Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m. and running through Sunday night at 11:59 p.m., no state or local taxes will be charged for approved items. All retailers are required to participate. A full list of eligible products can be found here.

“You never know how much interest there will be in something like this,” said state Department of Finance and Administration Communications Director Scott Hardin. “Just anecdotally, you hear stories and then you drive by the mall and you see a packed parking lot, and it really became a bit of an event and families taking a day and going to retailers.”

Items can also be purchased through online retailers without state and local taxes being imposed but must be shipped to an Arkansas address. Hardin says the online option has been growing in popularity, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year was the first time some electronics became eligible.

“For the first eight years of the program, electronic items did not qualify. And that was probably the number one question we received every year is why not cell phones, why not laptops, why not iPads? Well, the state legislature changed that.”

There is no limit on the cost of electronic items that will be free of state and local taxes, Hardin said, “so that is where Arkansans can save some serious money.”

The pandemic closing schools for a while in 2020 and virtual classes being held highlighted the importance of such technology, he said.

“I'm extremely pleased to see that these items are now included. And if you've been thinking about buying a new cell phone for whatever reason, this is a good weekend to do it."

Other categories of merchandise have limits. For clothing, each item must be less than $100 to qualify. Jewelry and other accessories must be below $50.

Arkansas is among 19 states that have sales tax holiday weekends, including all neighboring states except Louisiana, Hardin said. Some states also include Fridays.

It’s not known how much revenue Arkansas loses out on, he explained. The state’s current sales tax rate is 6.5%.

“When this [began] in 2012, our estimate at that time was Arkansans would save about $2.2 million over the course of the weekend. Of course, we've added electronic items, that’s another million there. And then you take inflation and put that into the equation and I think we can conservatively say Arkansans are saving between $4 [million] and $5 million over the course of the weekend.

Michael Hibblen was a journalist for KUAR News from May 2009 — December 2022. During his final 10 years with the station, he served as News Director. In January 2023, he was hired by Arkansas PBS to become its Senior Producer/ Director of Public Affairs.