2013 Sales Tax Holidays: Why This Is The Best Time To Buy A MacBook Air

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Photo by 401K – http://flic.kr/p/aFB7hB

August is upon us, and that means it’s time once again for a number of U.S. states to hold their annual sales tax holidays. If you’re in the market for a new Mac and reside in one of these states then consider the following tips – especially if you’re thinking about buying a new MacBook Air.

What You Should Know About Sales Tax Holidays

Nineteen states (if you include Puerto Rico, which is an unincorporated U.S. territory) have sales tax holidays occurring between July and November. In recent years, more and more states have expanded the scope of their tax holidays to include goods other than basic school supplies and hurricane preparedness gear. Eleven of the nineteen sales tax holidays will cover computers and computer-related products as tax-exempt items this year. All of those sales tax holidays occur between July and August, which means now is the time to save. For example, the 2013 Florida Sales Tax Holiday (August 2nd through 4th) will, for the first time, cover certain computer purchases selling for $750 or less. While the $750 limit makes Florida’s tax-free event less attractive than others due to its relatively low price limit, it’s still enough to save some money on cheaper Macs such as the iPad or Mac Mini. Other states, such as Massachusetts, have much higher spending limits on tax-exempt items, which means you could easily save over $100 in taxes on the purchase of a new Mac. You can save even more by combining these tax savings with other discounts and promotions.

If you’re looking to buy a new Mac in the near future you need to ask yourself two questions. First, will your state of residence hold a tax-free event this year? Second, does your state’s tax-free event cover computers or personal electronics? I’ve prepared this chart with the help of a couple different sources, which summarizes state tax holidays taking place this year. If you answer yes to both of these questions then you absolutely should time your purchase around your state’s sales tax holiday to maximize your savings.

StateTax Treatment OverviewRelevant DatesLink
ALComputers up to $750.00Aug 2-4More info
ARApple products do not appear to be coveredAug 3-4More info
CTApple products do not appear to be coveredAug 18-24More info
FLComputers up to $750.00Aug 2-4More info
GAComputers up to $1,000.00Aug 9-10, Oct 4-6More info
IAApple products do not appear to be coveredAug 2-3More info
LAComputers up to $2,500.00Aug 2-3More info
MAComputers up to $2,500.00Aug 10-11*More info
MDApple products do not appear to be coveredAug 11-7More info
MSApple products do not appear to be coveredJuly 26-27More info
MOComputers up to $3,500.00Aug 2-4More info
NMComputers up to $1,000.00, computer equipment up to $500.00Aug 2-4More info
NCComputers up to $3,500.00, computer equipment up to $250.00Aug 2-4, Nov 1-3More info
OKApple products do not appear to be coveredAug 2-4More info
PRComputers up to $750.00, computer equipment up to $200.00Jul 12-14More info
SCComputers with no limit on priceAug 2-4More info
TNComputers up to $1,500.00Aug 2-4More info
TXApple products do not appear to be coveredAug 9-11More info
VAApple products do not appear to be coveredAug 2-4, Oct 11-14More info
Table 1: Sources: Federation of Tax Administrators & The Pew Charitable Trusts
*As of July 28, 2013 Massachusetts legislatures expected to approve 2013 sales tax holiday

It should be mentioned that there are five states that don’t impose a sales tax at all. They are: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. Residents of these states never have to pay sales tax (unless one is imposed on the local-level) on items they purchase within those states. Non-residents don’t get charged taxes up front either, so that is why you’ve probably heard about people crossing state lines to shop tax free. Under these circumstances those individuals are still likely supposed to pay an equivalent tax in the form of what’s known as a use tax to their own state of residence. In practice, use tax laws are infrequently enforced, but you should understand that your state of residence may impose a use tax on items purchased out-of-state and you are legally obligated to declare these purchases and pay the use tax.

Education Discounts And Apple’s Back To School Promotion

The savvy buyer can save even more by combining these tax savings with Apple’s existing promotions and discounts. With the 2013-2014 school year right around the corner there are two additional discounts that you might want to use in conjunction with a sales tax holiday. First, Apple offers year-round discounts to students and faculty through its Education Discount Program. Education prices are typically $50 to $100 less than Apple’s standard prices. All you need to do to get the discount is verify that the purchaser is, in fact, a qualifying student or teacher.

The verification process for education purchasers has varied over the years, but it usually involves doing little more than showing a student ID or other school correspondence if shopping in-person or selecting your school from an online form if shopping online. While Apple does impose annual purchase limits per person, Apple does not do anything to prevent students or teachers from using their discounts on purchases for other individuals. Therefore, if you happen to know a student or teacher that isn’t planning on buying a new Mac this year, perhaps you can work out a deal.

Second, Apple’s Back to School Promotion going on now and lasts until September 6, 2013. If you buy a Mac computer during this period Apple will give you a $100 App Store gift card. If you buy an iPad or iPhone Apple will give you a $50 App Store gift card. These gift cards do not expire and you can use them to purchase anything from iTunes (e.g. apps, music, movies, books, movie rentals, etc.). Chances are you already will spend $100+ on iTunes within the next year, so you might as well consider this promotion a $50-$100 discount.

Despite Deep Savings, Not All Macs Are Ripe For Purchase

Timing is everything when buying a new Mac. After all, you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a Mac that’s going to be obsolete in a month or two. Consider where the Mac product family of your choice stands within its own product cycle before you buy it. A few hundred dollars in savings is enticing, but it still may not be worth it if a major upgrade is imminent. For example, with refreshes to the iPad and iPhone product families likely coming this fall you might want to hold off until Apple releases the updated models. If you’re still contemplating buying a Mac that Apple may be updating in the near future then consider giving Refurbished Macs a look. Apple doesn’t let buyers apply the education discount to refurbished Macs on the theory that refurbished Macs are already discounted, but refurbished Macs are eligible for tax-free treatment if purchased during your state’s sales tax holiday.

Possibly The Best Time To Buy A MacBook Air

This August is a great time to buy a new Mac. All things considered, the MacBook Air stands as the most attractive choice for several reasons. First, Apple updated its MacBook Air product family in June, which means that if you’re going to be in the market for the latest MacBook Air within the next six months, now is the time to buy. Admittedly, Apple sometimes releases product updates at unpredictable intervals, but the likelihood that Apple will update its MacBook Airs before 2014 is very slim. Second, the MacBook Air is exceedingly well suited for students and faculty alike. It’s compact, lightweight, yet very powerful – it’s a full-fledged computer capable of doing anything a student or teacher might need.

Finally, when it comes to sales tax holidays: the more you spend the more you save. This is because the amount you pay in sales taxes on a given purchase is calculated as a percentage of the final sale price. For example, if you were to spend $100 during the Massachusetts sales tax holiday you would save $6.50, which is the amount you otherwise would need to pay in sales tax (6.5%). If you were to spend $1,000 during the Massachusetts sales tax holiday you would save $65.00, which is the amount you otherwise would need to pay in sales tax (6.5%). The MacBook Air is a comparatively expensive purchase; the least expensive MacBook Air costs as much as the most expensive iPad. Consider the following overview of the savings one could attain by purchasing a MacBook Air during the Massachusetts sales tax holiday.

Sample Combination PurchasedApprox. Cost
Stock MacBook Air (2013 13-Inch: 256 GB) +6.25% MA sales tax$1,380.20
Stock MacBook Air (2013 13-inch: 256 GB) with education discount +6.25% MA sales tax$1,327.06
Stock MacBook Air (2013 13-inch: 256 GB) with education discount, tax free$1,249.00
Stock MacBook Air (2013 13-inch: 256 GB) with education discount, tax free, +$100 gift card$1,149.00
Table 2: Estimated savings on a MacBook Air by combining tax holiday discounts with other discounts

That’s over $200.00 in combined savings. You don’t even need to visit a brick-and-mortar Apple Store in order to receive any of these discounts. Simply place an order (including custom-configured Macs or refurbished) through Apple’s Online Store during the tax holiday and have it shipped to an address within your state of residence (the state that’s holding the tax holiday) and Apple will automatically deduct the taxes from your final bill (if the deduction doesn’t show up immediately don’t worry, it will in the final bill). Don’t forget that Apple offers free standard shipping on any online purchase above $50.

Have you ever bought a Mac during a sales tax holiday? Do you have any additional tips for our readers? If so, please post in the comments below.

  • HerbalEd

    Better yet … Reside in Oregon and never pay state sales tax on anything … ever. That is, if they don’t change the tax law, which they haven’t been able to do after many years of trying.

  • yyyau1002

    best place to buy Apple products is Hong Kong!

About the author

Jonathan ZschauJonathan was introduced to Apple at the age of five when his family bought its first computer, an Apple IIGS, in 1986. He has owned and used Macs almost exclusively ever since. He is an attorney from Boston, Massachusetts where he focuses on litigation technology. As a contributor he writes about consumer protection issues related to Apple products. He is also the author of Buying and Owning a Mac: Secrets Apple Doesn't Want You to Know.

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