RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia's tax free holiday starts at midnight, with many consumers hoping to save money on back to school supplies and clothing, but NBC12 found a new study that cast doubts on who really benefits.
Parents and bargain hunters will storm the stores this weekend, taking advantage of the 5.3% savings. School supplies $20 and under qualify - things like binders, glue and composition books, but the list also includes items like lunch boxes, musical instrument accessories and sheet music.
Clothing $100 and under also qualifies, and this is where the controversy begins. The list of tax exempt clothing has what you'd expect, but it also includes items like lingerie, costumes, diapers, even wedding apparel.
"Their list is a little bit arbitrary," said Kathryn Watson, Watchdog.org investigator.
Citing a tax foundation study, Watchdog.org reports the list allows Virginia's government to influence which products you buy.
"Backpacks are exempt..duffle bags aren't," said Watson. "You want to carry a lot of books and you a need different shaped bag that will work better, that isn't exempt, so maybe you have to buy the back pack that doesn't fit your needs as much."
Tennis shoes qualify, cleats don't. You'll pay no tax on golf shirts, but you will on shin guards.
"It's an easy way to get some political points when the research suggests that this really doesn't help anybody," said Watson.
According to the study, there is no data to support that tax holidays boost Virginia's economy. Plus, this week's sale might not be the best deal.
"People may not pay as much attention to prices as much because they're thinking, 'Hey, we're getting this great discount,' when in fact there may be better sales the stores had the week before, the week after," said Watson.
While there is a long list of items that qualify, many other products are excluded. Click here to see the list: http://www.tax.virginia.gov/documents/Sales%20Tax%20Holiday%20for%20Clothing%20and%20School%20Supplies%20-%20Lists%20of%20Exempt%20Items.pdf