The annual sales tax holiday that can save Texas shoppers $8 on every $100 spent on clothing and school supplies arrives Friday and continues through Sunday, with retailers all over Greater Waco offering special promotions and discounts to coincide with the 20th annual tax-free weekend.

“In 1999, the first year, we predicted shoppers would save $32.6 million in state and local sales tax. This year, we estimate shoppers will save $102.4 million, so you can see how this holiday has caught on,” said Kevin Lyons, a spokesman for the Texas Comptroller’s Office, which collects the tax.

Waco Transit, the local bus service, is offering free service on Saturday, so “Waco families are able to save gas money as well as bus fare while traveling the city in search of back-to-school deals,” according to a press release.

The Free Fare Day is offered on fixed Waco Transit routes. It is being offered in partnership with Workforce Solutions for the Heart of Texas.

To check routes and schedules, visit waco-texas.com or call 750-1900.

Items exempt from sales taxes this weekend appear on the Texas Comptroller’s Office website, texastaxholiday.org.

“As Texas families begin the process of replacing their beach towels with lunch boxes, the sales tax holiday is the perfect opportunity to save some money on supplies families need before the school bell rings,” Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in a press release announcing the sales tax breaks.

“As a father of three, I know how these expenses can add up,” he said.

The list of tax exempt items includes merchandise some consumers may find surprising. For example, taxes will be waived on leg warmers, coveralls, earmuffs, clerical vestments, pantyhose, pajamas, neckties, sweatsuits, chef uniforms, hunting vests and children’s novelty costumes, to name a few.

Sluggish spending locally

The sales tax holiday is arriving as Greater Waco struggles with sluggish spending, as reflected in Wednesday’s sales tax rebates from the Comptroller’s Office. The city of Waco received a $3.58 million rebate, which is 1.18% less than it received in August last year.

August rebates reflect June sales reported to Hegar’s office last month.

For the calendar year, Waco has received rebates totaling $26.6 million, only 0.68% more than it collected through August last year.

Consumers in Greater Waco pay a sales tax of 8.25 cents per dollar, with 6.25 cents going to the state, 1.5 cents going to local municipalities and a half-cent going to McLennan County.

Out-of-state consumers who order products online from retailers with locations in Texas also are eligible for sales tax breaks this weekend, Lyons, with the Comptroller’s Office, said in an email response to questions.

Jamie Laird, an assistant manager at the Gap clothing store at Central Texas Marketplace, said Wednesday she already is seeing more traffic.

“Some people are doing what I would call pre-shopping for the sales tax holiday,” Laird said. “Others indicate they don’t consider an 8% savings a big deal, so they are trying to beat the crowds.”

She said Gap is scheduled to receive fresh merchandise Thursday in anticipation of the sales tax holiday and its own in-store discount of 40% off all merchandise as part of its “friends and family” promotion.

“And we consider every customer a friend or family member,” she said.

Laird said she has noticed most retailers scattered across Central Texas Marketplace have promotions in place for the sales tax holiday.

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