No tax on appliance if it's Energy Star

Appliance sales boost savings

adunn@newsobserver.comNovember 3, 2011 

  • What's tax free? Most appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners and the like that meet the federal government's Energy Star guidelines.

    What's not? Dishwashers, geothermal heat pumps, appliance rentals and Energy Star products sold for use in a trade or business.

    Do I have to buy in a store? The tax exemption applies to items bought in stores or by mail, telephone or Internet. There is no limit or ceiling to the price of the appliance to qualify for tax-free status.

    What if I am buying on layaway? Appliances placed on layaway are tax-free if the order is completed during the three-day holiday, even if final payment is made afterward. Previous layaways that are paid in full during the weekend are also eligible for tax savings.

    What if I return the item? If you exchange an item purchased during the tax holiday, you can keep the savings only if the exchange is for an identical item.

    For more details about the tax-free Energy Star holiday, go to the N.C. Department of Revenue's website at press/ energystar.html .

    Amy Dunn

As one of the owners of Garner TV & Appliance, Amgad Saad is expecting to do a brisk business this weekend.

It's tax-free weekend on Energy Star appliances in North Carolina, which means there will be a lot of refrigerators and washing machines being wheeled out the door of Saad's two stores between Friday morning and Sunday evening.

"If it's like years past, in these three days we typically do one month's business," said Saad, whose family has owned Garner TV & Appliance since 1977.

His employees, who generally rotate weekends, are all scheduled to work. And both stores will be open Sunday, a day when they're normally closed.

Home Depot, Lowe's and Sears are also ready for the tax-free weekend. All three are advertising at least 10 percent off sales, in addition to tax savings.

At least a portion of this weekend's business, however, will be generated by customers who knew about the tax holiday and delayed their purchases, retailers acknowledged.

"A lot of people wait," Saad said. "You sacrifice business beforehand, but you want to be honest with your customers," he said.

In Wake and 81 other North Carolina counties, consumers will save 6.75 percent in state and local sales tax on qualified energy-saving products, many of them big-ticket items. In Mecklenburg County, the savings is 7.25 percent. Residents of the remaining 17 counties will save 7 percent.

"The average refrigerator we sell is $2,000, so that's a nice savings," Saad said.

Revenue Dept. regrets

While the tax holiday saves consumers money - both at the store and on energy bills - it costs state and local governments money in lost sales tax revenue.

This year, the state estimates it will forfeit $1.7 million in lost sales tax revenue, said Beth Stevenson, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Revenue.

While any lost revenue is significant in times of economic hardship, the Energy Star tax holiday losses are a fraction of the estimated $14.5 million in sales taxes lost during the three-day back-to-school tax holiday in August.

Some lawmakers have suggested it might be time to rethink the wisdom of such tax holidays during a budget crunch. But legislators have continued to authorize both events, which have proved popular with retailers and price-conscious consumers.

And the dishwasher?

Included in this weekend's Energy Star tax holiday are refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, central air conditioners, room air conditioners, air-source heat pumps, ceiling fans, dehumidifiers and programmable thermostats.

All the items must be designated as Energy Star products, meeting guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Most notably absent from the list is the dishwasher. "North Carolina sees dishwashers as a luxury item," Saad said.

Some dishwasher manufacturers are offering their own discounts equal to the sales tax savings.

Saad said his store negotiated with Frigidaire and GE to offer an instant rebate on Energy Star dishwashers equal to the 6.75 percent sales tax.

Dunn: 919-829-4522

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