What you need to know about the 2023 Texas back-to-school tax-free weekend

The 2023 Texas back-to-school tax-free weekend runs from 12:01 a.m. Friday, August 11, to midnight Sunday, August 13.

Sales tax holidays are always a heady time for consumers able to purchase a variety of items sales tax free. They tend to be more of a pain point for the retailers that must ensure they don’t collect tax on eligible transactions.

What is eligible for the tax-free weekend in Texas?

Clothing and footwear

Much clothing and footwear priced less than $100 is exempt from Texas sales tax during the back-to-school tax-free weekend — but some clothing and footwear doesn’t qualify for the exemption. 

Exempt clothing and footwear include:

  • Bowling shirts 
  • Chef uniforms
  • Diapers (cloth and disposable)
  • Face masks (cloth and disposable)
  • Hiking boots 
  • Workout clothes

Products that remain taxable during the sales tax holiday include:

  • Accessories Bowling shoes (rented and sold) 
  • Fishing boots (waders)
  • Life jackets and vests
  • Protective masks (e.g., N95, welder, swim, and the like)
  • Sweatbands (arm, wrist, and head) 

Clothing and footwear sold for general use tend to qualify for the back-to-school sales tax holiday while tax typically continues to apply to accessories as well as sports and recreational equipment. Thus, baseball caps and jerseys are exempt, but baseball cleats, gloves, and pants remain taxable. 

The Texas back-to-school tax-free weekend is an annual event, but changes do sometimes occur. For instance, face masks were added to the list of qualifying items during the COVID-19 pandemic. When in doubt, check the Texas Comptroller’s list of qualifying and nonqualifying items.

School supplies

The back-to-school sales tax holiday applies to specified school supplies and school backpacks priced less than $100 per item.

Exempt items include:

  • Book bags 
  • Calculators
  • Lunch boxes
  • Notebooks
  • Paper 
  • Pencils and pens

If several school supplies are sold together in a kit, and the kit contains qualifying and nonqualifying items, the taxability of the kit depends on the value of the exempt and taxable items contained in it. If the value of the exempt items is greater than the value of the taxable items, the kit would qualify for the tax-free weekend. If the value of the taxable items is greater, the kit wouldn’t qualify so would be taxable.

There’s a list of qualifying school supplies on the Texas Comptroller website. If an item isn’t on that list, it isn’t eligible for the tax-free weekend.

Do retailers have to participate in the Texas tax-free weekend?

All retailers registered for sales tax in Texas, including out-of-state online and mail-order businesses, are required to participate in the Texas back-to-school sales tax holiday. If you sell qualifying goods to Texas consumers, you cannot charge state or local sales tax on those transactions from August 11 through 13.

Can retailers pay the tax on nonqualifying items?

Texas allows retailers to absorb sales tax, so retailers may pay the sales tax due on items not eligible for the temporary sales tax exemption. 

However, retailers cannot claim or infer that nonqualifying items are exempt from sales tax. If you intend to absorb sales tax during the upcoming sales tax holiday, you must make clear in advertisements or statements that you’re paying sales tax for your customers.

Invoices, receipts, and statements given to customers must separately state the tax and indicate the tax will be paid by the seller.

How to prepare for the back-to-school sales tax holiday season

If you live in a state with a sales tax holiday and want to take advantage of it as a consumer, mark your calendars and set aside time for online shopping or shopping excursions. Once it’s over, you’ll have to wait until next year to purchase qualifying items tax free — and that’s assuming it’s annually recurring. In some states, like Florida, sales tax holidays are one-time events that must be enacted by the legislature each year.

If you’re a retailer doing business in states with a tax-free weekend, your job is harder. You need to ensure you understand exactly which transactions qualify for the sales tax holiday, and which don’t. If your point-of-sale system or ecommerce platform handles sales tax, you should verify that it covers sales tax holidays.

Some ecommerce platforms cover certain sales tax requirements automatically, but they may not account for sales tax holidays. Ecommerce platforms that partner with a sales tax service provider typically offer the sales tax features that are most important to their customers and that could include tax-free weekend capability. It’s a good idea to confirm what your ecommerce platform does and doesn’t do before the start of a sales tax holiday.

We’re in the thick of the back-to-school sales tax holiday season now. See a list of state back-to-school tax-free weekends and sales tax holidays for 2023 for more information, including how tax-free weekends affect exchanges, layaway sales, and shipping charges. 

For a list of all tax-free weekends happening this year, see 2023 sales tax holidays.

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