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The Daily Tar Heel

Make shopping less taxing: State should have additional tax-free weekend in spring

The institution of a tax- free weekend for the purchase of spring textbooks would be a small, albeit noble, step toward lowering textbook costs for college students.

The UNC-system Board of Governors is actively lobbying the state legislature to make this a reality — and the Association of Student Governments needs to get on board.

Currently, state law mandates that certain purchases made during one weekend in early August are exempt from sales tax. While not all items qualify for the exemption, specific provisions apply to the vast majority of educational materials — including textbooks.

Students and administrators have long complained about the price of textbooks, and with good reason: textbook costs have risen double the rate of inflation over the past 20 years.

The average student pays $680 a year on books and class-related items. Those few extra bucks that can be saved certainly add up.

Adding a tax-free weekend for the spring semester makes sense and would help cut book costs.

Students usually don’t know in August what their schedules will look like for the spring semester. And with stringent textbook return policies for most textbook retailers, purchasing all annual course supplies in one summer weekend is a risk too expensive for some to take.

But there is also a major downside to this proposal. An additional tax-free weekend could cost the state up to $20 million in lost revenue.

With the state facing a $500 million budget gap next year, legislators might not be as receptive as students would like them to be.

However, a reasonable compromise would be to exempt only textbooks and mandatory course materials for the second tax-free weekend, rather than other purchases.

Regardless, a second tax-free weekend would be a meaningful step by the state to help students fight outrageous textbook costs and should seriously be considered a priority.

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