School does not start for another three weeks, but students and parents of school-aged kids in Maryland would be wise to get their back-to-school clothes shopping done this week.

That's because it's the annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free week, which means shoppers won't be charged the state's 6 percent sales tax on purchases of any qualified apparel or footwear item $100 or less. The exemption is good regardless of how many items you buy.

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Items that are exempt range from dresses, shirts, jeans, slacks, sweaters, coats, jackets, underwear and shoes as long as they are $100 each. And if you have a coupon or other discount that reduces the price of the item to $100 or less, it would also qualify as tax-free.

Accessories, such as watches, jewelry and ties are not eligible, however, for the first time, the first $40 of a backpack or book bag is also exempt from Maryland's sales tax. A complete list of exempt and nonexempt items can be found on the Maryland comptroller's website at comptroller.marylandtaxes.com.

Tax-free weeks, in part, encourage shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers and keeping those dollars in-state. In Maryland, that is particularly important considering it is bordered by two states — Delaware to the east and Pennsylvania to the north — that don't charge sales tax on clothing items.

In Carroll County, that means consumers might be tempted to drive over the Mason-Dixon line for a day of back-to-school shopping at the Gettysburg Outlets to save a few bucks.

Maryland's tax-free shopping week seeks to encourage them to pump their dollars back into the state's economy instead. While we certainly encourage shopping at small, locally owned businesses whenever possible, even spending your money in large chain stores results in 43 percent of those dollars being reinvested into your own community, according to data from American Express.

The tax-free promotion began Sunday and continues through Saturday, Aug. 20. It's worth making the effort to do back-to-school shopping during this period, too, because the National Retail Federation is predicting a 10 percent jump in spending from last year.

Spending for elementary to high school students is expected to be $29.5 billion, or about $688 each, and college students are expected to spend an all-time high of more than $54 billion, roughly $970 per family, NRF reports. About half of that will be on clothing and shoes, items that are eligible tax-free week.

While it's great news that consumer confidence is high and Americans are willing to spend hard-earned cash, we all loving saving money. Keep your money in Maryland and keep a few extra bucks in your pocket by shopping tax-free here through Saturday.



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