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State tax holidays: Is your state on the list?

This summer, there will be at least 17 state tax holidays, usually lasting a weekend. Most of the state tax holidays are aimed at back-to-school shoppers, but a few involve far more goods.

By Mary Helen MillerCorrespondent / August 4, 2011

Mary Williams (left) sizes her son Rhoderick Williams for a shirt during tax-free weekend shopping at JC Penney in Turtle Creek Mall in Hattiesburg, Miss., on July 29, 2011. Mississippi was the first of at least 17 states that are offering state tax holidays this summer.

Ryan Moore / Hattiesburg American / AP

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Cash-strapped states are eager to raise revenue these days. Even so, 17 of them have decided they'll take a quick break from collecting sales tax to boost retail sales as students gear up for the new school year. Many states will exempt the sale of some school-related items, like clothing, computers, and supplies, from state taxes for a brief period, usually a weekend. A few state tax holidays extend to other items as well or last an entire week.

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Such holidays have been around for more than 10 years and popular for the past five. The participating states vary a little from year to year. Arkansas is the only new adopter for 2011.

Before setting out to buy a new laptop or a pair of back-to-school kicks, check to see if your state (or one nearby) will be observing a tax holiday this summer. It could save you hundreds.

Here are the states holding tax holidays this summers:

Alabama: The tax break is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 5, to Sunday, Aug 7. The usual sales tax of 4 percent will be suspended for: clothing items that cost up to $100, computers that cost less than $750, books that cost less than $30, and other school supplies that cost less than $50.

Arkansas: Beginning this year, the state will have an annual tax holiday during the first weekend of August, which is Aug. 5 to 7 this time around. All school supplies, including art and instructional material, are exempt from the usual 6 percent sales tax. Additionally, clothing and footwear that cost less than $100 per item are exempt, as well as clothing accessories and equipment that cost less than $50 each.

Connecticut: Connecticut is one of just two states to observe a week-long holiday. The grace period from the state's 6 percent sales tax lasts from Sunday, Aug. 21 to Saturday, Aug. 27. It includes clothing and footwear that cost less than $300 per item.

Florida: Clothing and footwear, which costs less than $75 per item, and school supplies, which cost less than $15 per item, will be exempt from state and local taxes of up to 7.5 percent from Friday, Aug. 12, to Sunday, Aug. 14. The holiday does not apply to books, nor does it apply to items sold inside theme parks or airports.

Iowa: For just two days, Friday Aug. 5 and Saturday Aug. 6, footwear and clothing costing less than $100 per item will be exempt from state and local sales tax, which can total up to 7 percent.

Louisiana: Louisiana’s tax holiday isn’t particularly long – just two days – but it’s the most liberal. On Friday Aug. 5 and Saturday Aug. 6, the first $2,500 toward the purchase of most tangible, personal properties will be exempt from the state’s 4 percent sales tax. Local taxes may apply, and the exemption does not count for items purchased for business use.

Maryland: Like Connecticut, Maryland’s tax holiday lasts for seven days: Sunday, Aug. 14 to Saturday, Aug. 20. The state’s 6 percent sales tax won’t apply to the purchase of clothing and footwear that costs less than $100.

Massachusetts: Signed into law just in time for back-to-school shopping, Massachusetts will observe two days of tax free shopping, on Aug. 13 and 14. Nearly as generous as Louisiana, Massachusetts will lift its 6.25 percent sales tax on almost any tangible, personal property, costing less than $2,500.

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