RED BANK — Parents will be able to take advantage of a small discount on their back-to-school purchases later this summer thanks to a sales tax holiday, Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers announced Wednesday.
The tax relief is being approved as part of negotiations on the 2023 state budget, which must be in place by the end of the month to avoid a partial state government shutdown. A deal is expected, largely because the state is inundated with surprisingly high tax collections.
Murphy said the tax holiday will last 10 days, from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5, meaning it will span two weekends and end on Labor Day. This timing would mean that some schools will actually be back in session before the program launches.
“This sales tax holiday will cover a range of items used by our students, from kindergarten through college and university, from pens and pencils and notebooks to art supplies, textbooks or other study guides, new computers laptops, among many others,” Murphy said.
“We will also include in this vacation a lot of sports and recreational equipment that our students will need to perform at their best on the playground or in other extracurricular activities,” he said. “And importantly, it will also cover bicycle helmets, an important safety investment for any child, but obviously and especially for students who cycle to school.”
Clothing and footwear are already exempt from sales tax in New Jersey, an exemption that is saving consumers an estimated $661 million in taxes this year, according to the state’s latest tax expenditure report.
Fifteen states and Washington, DC currently have back-to-school sales tax exemptions.
“Make no mistake about this. This is the Legislature’s direct attack on inflation,” said Senate Speaker Nick Scutari, D-Union. “This is one of the things our state legislature can do to address rising costs statewide for a limited number of properties. And that’s something we have the money to do, and that’s giving that money back to the taxpayers.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said the average family spends about $800 on back-to-school shopping.
“As we all know, getting kids ready for the new school year can strain a family’s budget,” Coughlin said. “…Our plan lowers the price for the nearly 2 million families with K-12 students here in New Jersey, for teachers who often spend their own money to support their students, and for those going to college, as well as small businesses that could benefit from the program, and that’s money in the family’s pocket.
“Whether a student is just starting college or going on to graduate school, a few extra savings will definitely add up,” said Murphy, who said the savings could be “a few hundred dollars.”
New Jersey sales tax is 6.625% in most municipalities, but half in 37 municipalities that have urban enterprise zones.
Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio, R-Warren, said consumers expect to spend an average of about $434 on school supplies and electronics, cutting out already tax-exempt spending on school supplies. clothes and shoes from their baskets. The savings on $434 in expenses would be $28.75.
“Another disappointing gimmick when people need real relief,” DiMaio said. “How deaf are they? When you can’t afford to live in New Jersey, that short vacation on notebooks and pencils doesn’t make sense.
Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, said Senate Republicans have offered “real tax relief” totaling $8 billion, including $1,500 in immediate rebates.
“I don’t think the 13 cents in sales tax savings on a $2 box of pencils that Democrats have proposed represents substantial relief for New Jersey families,” Oroho said. “…And do we really expect people to wait until the last week to start preparing for the next school year? The Democrats in Trenton have lost touch with reality.
School supplies included in the sales tax holiday
Under the proposal, tax-exempt supplies and equipment would include:
- School supplies, such as pens and pencils, notebooks and binders
- School art supplies, such as paints and brushes, clay and glazes
- School teaching materials, such as reference books, reference maps, globes, textbooks and workbooks
- Computers priced under $3,000 and school computer supplies, such as computer storage equipment, printers, and personal digital assistants that retail for less than $1,000 each
- Athletic or recreational equipment, including but not limited to ballet and tap shoes, baseball and hockey gloves, cleated or spiked athletic shoes, mouth guards, roller and ice skates , and sports and motorcycle helmets
The sales tax exemption will apply to both physical stores and online sales, Treasury Department spokeswoman Danielle Currie said.
Senator Fred Madden and MP Paul Moriarty, both D-Gloucester, said they had tabled a bill making the back-to-school tax relief an annual program.
“Prices are rising and inflation shows no signs of abating,” Moriarty said. “Now more than ever, it’s critical to help families cut expenses where they can. A tax holiday just before back to school will be something parents and teachers can count on when shopping for back to school.
The Back-to-School Tax Relief Bill was first proposed in 2006 and in every legislative session since.
Michael Symons is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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