What you need to know about the Illinois sales tax exemption

CHICAGO, IL – Attention back-to-school shoppers! The Illinois sales tax holiday takes place August 5-14.

During the ten-day period, Illinois will reduce the state sales tax on school supplies by 5%. Buyers will only pay 1.25% plus local sales tax. It’s all an effort to provide some relief to families as record inflation bites into many budgets.

(Image: Illinois Department of Revenue)

It’s important to note that not all “back to school” items qualify for the sales tax reduction and there are caveats when it comes to clothing and footwear as well.

What school supplies are included in the sales tax exemption

The state defines school supplies as “items used by a student in a course of study.” Items recognized by the state as “school supplies” include:

  • folders
  • book bags
  • calculators
  • cellophane tape
  • blackboard chalk
  • bars
  • composition books
  • Color pencils
  • Erasers
  • expandable pocket
  • Plastic and manila folders
  • Stick, stick and stick sticks
  • highlighters
  • Records
  • token boxes
  • legal pads
  • Lunchboxes
  • markers
  • Notebooks and notebook paper (including loosely ruled notebook paper, copy paper, graph paper, tracing paper, manila paper, colored paper, cardstock, and construction paper)
  • Pencils and pencil leads
  • Ballpoint pens, ink and ink refills for ballpoint pens
  • Pencil boxes and other school supplies boxes
  • Pencil sharpener
  • conveyors
  • rulers
  • Scissors
  • writing tablets

What is not included in the sales tax exemption

The state says the reduced tax rate cannot be applied to the purchase of supplies that would be used by non-students, such as school art supplies, school instructional supplies, and school computer supplies. Items listed in those categories include:

“School Art Supply”:

  • Clay and glazes
  • Acrylic
  • Tempera and oil paint
  • art brushes
  • Sketch and drawing pads
  • watercolors

“School Instructional Material”:

  • reference books
  • Reference maps and globes
  • textbooks
  • work books

“Supply of School Computers”:

  • Flash drives and other computer data storage devices
  • Data storage media (such as floppy disks and compact discs)
  • Record Storage Boxes & Cases
  • Ports or external drives
  • computer cases
  • computer cables
  • computer printers
  • Printer cartridges, toner, ink

What clothing and footwear is included in the sales tax exemption

Only qualifying clothing and footwear with a retail price of less than $125 can get the discounted tax.

The following items are considered “clothing” by the state:

  • Aprons for home and shop
  • athletic supporters
  • Bathing suits and caps
  • belts and suspenders
  • Boots
  • Coats and jackets
  • ear muffs
  • Feet
  • Gloves and mittens
  • hats and caps
  • Hosiery
  • shoe insoles
  • Lab coats
  • ties
  • shoe covers
  • Pantyhose
  • Waterproof clothing
  • rubber pants
  • Flip flops
  • scarves
  • shoes and laces
  • Sneakers
  • Sneakers
  • socks and tights
  • steel toe shoes
  • Underwear
  • School uniform

What clothing and footwear is *NOT* included in the sales tax exemption

“Clothes” does not include sports or recreational equipment, protective equipment, or clothing accessories. The state has the following items listed in those categories:

“Sports or recreational equipment“:

  • Ballet and tap shoes
  • Sports shoes with studs or spikes
  • Gloves, including but not limited to baseball, bowling, boxing, hockey, and golf gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hand and elbow protectors
  • life jackets and vests
  • mouth guards
  • roller and ice skates
  • Shin pads
  • Shoulder pads
  • ski boots
  • Waders
  • Wetsuits and fins

“Protective equipment”:

  • breathing masks
  • Clothing and clean room equipment
  • Hearing and hearing protectors
  • masks
  • hard hats
  • Helmets
  • Paint or dust respirators
  • protective gloves
  • Goggles and safety glasses
  • Seat belts
  • Tool belts
  • Welder’s gloves and masks

“Clothes and accessories”:

  • briefcases
  • Cosmetic products
  • Hair accessories, including but not limited to barrettes, hair ties, and hair nets
  • Handbags
  • scarves
  • Jewels
  • non-prescription sunglasses
  • Umbrella
  • wallets
  • watches
  • Wigs and hairpieces

Important things to remember

Let’s say you have a mix of qualifying and non-qualifying items in your purchase. The state says that the reduced sales tax can be applied to your total purchase, but only if the value of the qualifying items exceeds the value of the non-qualifying items. Each qualifying item of clothing must also meet the limit of $125 or less.

Additionally, any qualifying item purchased with a rain check issued prior to the sales tax holiday can receive reduced sales tax; however, rain checks issued during the sales tax holiday are not eligible because they would be purchased after the holiday is over.

You can go to the Illinois Department of Revenue for more information.

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