If so, it will be because the Legislature passes House Bill 144, a measure that would increase the value limit of computers that can be purchased tax-free during the state’s annual sales tax holiday weekend.
Currently, computers priced at $750 or less are exempt, but if the new provision is approved, computers that cost $1,500 or less will be exempt.
The holiday began years ago to help parents buy supplies before the start of the school without paying sales tax on those items. The three-day sales tax holiday is typically held in August. During the holiday, shoppers in Alabama can buy clothes and school supplies without paying state sales tax. Many cities, towns and counties participate as well, dropping their local sales taxes for the weekend.
While the sales tax holiday offers some financial relief to taxpayers, it doesn’t help local governments. Every dollar spent during the holiday is a dollar the state and local governments won’t collect sales tax on.
Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, opposes the legislation because, he says, it would keep state and local governments from collecting revenue they would otherwise get.
“We’re in general opposed to any type of exemption because of the impact it has on government funding,” he said. “The intent was to allow for the basic things that are back-to-school expenditures.”
The current legislation also limits the cost of other items that can be purchased without paying sales tax on the holiday. Clothes that cost more than $100 and school supplies that cost more than $50 are not tax exempt, for example.
Brasfield said the tax-exempt holiday is not intended to encourage people to buy high-end items.
“It was never intended to deal with the Cadillac computers … just as it was never intended to deal with more expensive tennis shoes,” he said.
But Matt Akin, superintendent of Piedmont City Schools, sees it differently.
He knows just how beneficial technology can be in the classroom. As the leader of a public school system, he also knows how dependent schools and other public agencies are on tax revenue. He welcomes the legislation, though, because it will make advanced technology accessible to more students.
“I think it’s a positive step because I do think that technology, specifically computers, are definitely a learning tool,” Akin said. “Obviously, there will be people that would take advantage of it, but that would be the case with any legislation.”
Earlier this year, every Piedmont student in grades four through 12 received MacBook computers. They were purchased with money from a federal grant. Now federal tax dollars are going to be used to provide Internet service at students’ homes. The technology, Akin said, is an academic equalizer.
“It gives us a chance to really provide individualized learning to all kids,” he said. “I think it’s impossible without this technology.”
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.