16 states have tax-free shopping on school supplies. Should Hawaii be next?

Parents push for tax-free school supplies

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As students and teachers return to class, many families are spending hundreds of dollars on school supplies.

It all adds up, especially with the state's high cost of living.

So some lawmakers want to waive the taxes on back-to-school sales.

The National Retail Federation says on average, families with children spend about $117 per child on the basic school supplies, like pencils and notebooks. Add items like clothing and electronics, and that number jumps.

This year, at least 16 states across the nation are waiving taxes on school supplies. These tax holidays usually happen on weekends before students return to class.

Parents say it's an idea that would help a lot of Hawaii families and teachers.

Rechelle Pacheco, a mother of five from Kalihi, says having a tax holiday on school supplies would allow many Hawaii families like hers to spend their money on other important necessities.

"A lot of parents are working two jobs. Those two jobs are already trying to cover the rent and the food and everything else, and then you got the school supplies. What am I going to do? Take up a third job? Cannot. It's too hard," said Pacheco.

Last legislative session, state lawmakers considered proposals to create a general excise tax holiday for retailers who sell school supplies, only if they passed on that discount to shoppers.

"It gives a tax holiday for a certain period of time, maybe a weekend, maybe a couple of days, right before the school year starts on items such as school supplies, clothes, bags, things like that," said State Rep. Scot Matayoshi, who co-introduced the House bill.

The bills were killed and the state tax department expressed concerns about it’s ability to prove if a business was passing the savings on to their customers.

While some teachers support the proposal, others say a single tax holiday would have little impact.

"A lot of us spend hundreds, if not more than hundreds, of dollars every year all throughout the year for our students," said Jennie Hancock, 5th grade teacher at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School. "If our schools weren't chronically under funded we wouldn't need to be spending our own money to buy the supplies that the Department of Education should be paying for."

State Rep. Lisa Kitagawa says she plans to reintroduce a similar bill next session.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.