Tax-free weekend kicks off in Texas, but how did it start?

The tax holiday is only a little over 20 years old in Texas.

Photo of Steven Santana

Time to save on school supplies and clothes this weekend. But do you even know how tax-free weekend got its start?

Time to save on school supplies and clothes this weekend. But do you even know how tax-free weekend got its start?

Daniel Carde /Special Contributor

Parents are headed to the stores starting Friday, August 5, as tax-free weekend kicks off, allowing them to pick up school supplies and clothes before kids return to school across Texas. 

Most people know by now how tax-free weekend works. If you don’t, here’s a great explainer. But most people probably don’t know how this so-called holiday got its start in Texas. You might be surprised to know that tax-free weekend isn’t that old. It’s relatively young. 

Here’s a quick dive into how tax-free weekend came to be the money-saving weekend it’s known as today. 

Shop like it’s 1999

  • Tax-free weekend was created in Texas in 1999 when legislators approved Senate Bill 441.
  • The bill was authored by a Democratic senator from Houston, Rodney Ellis.
  • The proposed bill asked for the sales tax break on all items under $200 when proposed, according to the bill’s history.
  • Originally it was supposed to be a full week. 
  • Amendments to the bill before it was signed by the governor in June 1999 brought the limit to $100 and just one weekend. 
  • When it first passed, consumers were expected to save more than $11 million in 199 and more than $85 million over three years, according to Express-News archives. 
  • In 2021, the comptroller’s office said consumers saved $107.3 million during the tax-free weekend. 

“Putting money back in pockets”

“Despite our growing economy, too many hard-working Texas families are struggling to make ends meet,” said Ellis in an old Express-News article. “This plan cuts taxes on the essentials all families must purchase, putting more money back in the pockets of all Texans.”

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