SPRINGFIELD — Through next Sunday, Aug. 14, the state is reducing its sales tax rate from 6.25% to 1.25% for certain clothing items costing less than $125 and school supplies.
The “tax holiday,” which started Friday, was included in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “family relief plan,” one prong of several bills making up the Fiscal Year 2023 operating budget. The tax breaks passed with nearly unanimous support in the General Assembly and provided an estimated $1.8 billion in tax relief for Illinoisans.
“These past two and a half years, for everyone, of managing through the pandemic has been hard,” Pritzker said at a news conference Thursday. “And the last nine months of inflation on top of that has strained the budgets of parents and teachers alike. Prices have risen for everything from gas to groceries to school supplies, and everyone is taking a hit. It’s at moments like these that we need thoughtful and creative solutions that provide financial relief for Illinois families.”
The state estimated the sales tax reduction would amount to $50 million in savings for taxpayers.
Included clothing items
The 10-day tax reduction includes clothing items costing less than $125 individually.
Clothing items, as defined by the law, include the standard items such as shorts, pants, skirts, shirts and underwear. The tax reduction will also apply to aprons, hats, caps and earmuffs, coats and jackets, belts and suspenders, rubber pants, lab coats, hosiery, scarves, bathing suits, school uniforms and neckties.
It also applies to footwear — shoes, shoelaces, slippers, insoles, boots, socks and sandals.
But it does not apply to ballet, tap or athletic shoes, roller or ice skates, ski boots, waders or fins.
Shoppers also should not expect the reduced sales tax rate on accessory items such as briefcases, hair bows, handbags, jewelry, sunglasses or wigs. The reduction also does not apply to sports gloves, goggles, hand and elbow guards, life preservers, wetsuits, shoulder pads, shin guards or mouth guards.
Also excluded are protective equipment items such as breathing masks, hearing protectors, face shields, hard hats and helmets, respirators, protective gloves, safety goggles or tool belts.
Included school supplies
Binders, book bags, calculators, cellophane tape, blackboard chalk, notebooks, erasers, folders, index cards, legal pads, lunch boxes, pencils and sharpeners, supply boxes, protractors, rulers, compasses, and scissors are all eligible for the reduced tax rate.
So are glue, highlighters, markers, crayons and colored pencils.
Shoppers should not expect other art supplies to be eligible for the reduced rate, however. Clay and glaze, paints and paint brushes, sketch pads and drawing pads will all be taxed at the regular 6.25% rate.
Textbooks, reference books, maps and globes are all excluded from the “holiday” as well.
Electronics and computers will also be taxed at the regular rate. That includes computers and related supplies such as flash drives, memory cards, data storage, computer cases, cables, printers and ink.
Shoppers also should not expect any breaks while buying cameras, cellphones or handheld electronics.
The task of adjusting the tax rate for individual items will fall on retailers, who collect sales tax and remit it to the state.
Guidance from the Illinois Department of Revenue on qualifying items can be found here.
Other tax relief
Other tax relief measures approved in the budget include a property tax rebate up to 5% of the homeowner’s tax bill up to $300, and a one-time income tax rebate of $50 per individual and $100 per dependent, up to a limit of three children per family. Those would be available to individuals with incomes up to $200,000 and joint filers with incomes up to $400,000.
The package also suspends for one year the 1% tax on groceries and puts a six-month pause on the automatic inflationary increase in the state’s motor fuel tax, which was estimated to be 2.2 cents per gallon.
The plan also permanently expands the state earned income tax credit from 18 to 20% of the federal credit while also expanding the number of households that can claim the credit.
The measure also set an income tax credit for teachers buying classroom supplies at $250 for the current year and $500 beginning Jan. 1.
5 vehicles that are easy on the wallet
Those who can’t stretch all the way to $20,000 but want a new, reliable and fuel-efficient vehicle should consider the 2022 Nissan Versa. Despite its small footprint, the Versa offers excellent passenger space and a roomy trunk. Driving aids like forward collision warning and lane departure warning come standard. Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats are ergonomically friendly, though a few of our editors found they lacked lumbar support.
The Versa feels well built and can even be entertaining to drive — just don’t expect much in the way of acceleration. In addition to a price tag that leaves room for options, Versa buyers will save at the pump with an EPA estimate of 35 mpg combined. (We averaged 41 mpg on our evaluation route.)
Want a more practical shape? The 2023 Kia Soul is one of a handful of inexpensive and well-reviewed hatchbacks on sale. With car-like handling and SUV-like interior dimensions, the Soul is broadly appealing. A standard 2.0-liter engine is peppy for around-town driving, though passing maneuvers require some forethought. The continuously variable transmission mimics automatic gear changes, eliminating the usual droning noise. Handling is on par with sportier competitors thanks to balanced steering and controlled body motions.
The Soul’s boxy exterior allows for easy entry and exit, plus generous headroom for passengers. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are accessed via an easy-to-use touchscreen. The EPA puts its fuel economy at 30 combined mpg, though we only managed 26.8 mpg in our testing.
The line between a hatchback and SUV can sometimes be faint, and the front-wheel-drive-only Hyundai Venue is caught in between. Though it offers ground clearance comparable to other small SUVs, the Venue lacks all-wheel drive as an option. Still, with a price tag just north of $20,000, the Venue is among the cheapest ways to sneak into the most popular segment.
An 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and navigation is standard and easy to operate. Given its micro size, the Venue has impressive passenger and cargo space. Seat and ride comfort is excellent for the segment, and power is adequate. The EPA rates the 2022 Venue at 31 combined mpg, but we averaged 29 mpg in our driving loop.
Just because affordable sedans are primarily front-wheel-drive doesn’t mean all-wheel drive is unattainable. The 2022 Subaru Impreza is the least expensive way to get the all-weather assurance of all-wheel drive in a sedan or hatchback. With a comfortable, spacious cabin and intuitive technology, the Impreza treats passengers well.
Steering and handling is solid, though lackluster acceleration and a droning CVT bring down the driving experience. Standard driving aids like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist bundle convenience and confidence. The EPA estimates CVT-equipped Impreza sedans will get 32 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Unfortunately, we struggled to average even 28 mpg.
When hatchback or small SUV practicality isn’t enough, shoppers can turn to small pickups like the Ford Maverick. After falling out of fashion for a while, these light-duty compact trucks are back to offer an affordable alternative for DIY-ers. The Maverick’s clever interior storage and a 4.5-foot bed offer versatility, while a standard hybrid powertrain vaults its EPA estimates to 37 combined mpg.
That’s better mpg than even the most frugal compact sedans, plus you get a rugged pickup style, stellar passenger space and crossover-like maneuverability. Ride quality is a tad choppy, and hard plastic panels can bump uncomfortably against your knees, but the Maverick’s low pricing and utility may help offset the cons. Take note that all 2022 model year Mavericks are sold out, but Ford has started taking orders for 2023 vehicles.
Note that these inexpensive prices are for the base models, which might not be carried by dealerships in the current market. You might need to plan ahead and order the vehicle if need be.
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