Missouri’s sales tax holiday continues through Sunday.  The annual three-day period when certain items are exempt from the state’s 4.225% tax starts on the first Friday in August.

Tanger Outlets Branson (Photo courtesy of Branson Tourism Center)

Certain back-to-school purchases, such as clothing, school supplies and computer equipment are included in the holiday, while sunglasses, purses and scarves are not.

Many cities and counties are also suspending their local levies, but many are not.  Governing bodies in larger urban areas have adopted like policies for the three-day weekend.

Both Kansas City and St. Louis as well as their surrounding counties are participating in the holiday.  Springfield, Branson, Columbia and Jefferson City have opted out, as have the counties of all four cities.  Joplin and Jasper County are also not participating.

According to coupon site Offers.com, Missouri’s consumers will see sales rates of about 7.89% for the shopping weekend.  St. Louis area shoppers are enjoying hefty savings of about 8.7% with state, city and county taxes all suspended.  Purchases in Kansas City are exempt from taxes totaling almost 8.5%.

Shoppers in areas not participating in the holiday will still see their sales taxes reduce by 50% percent or more. In Columbia, items included in the holiday will still carry a 3.75% sales tax.

17 states, mostly in the southeastern United States hold sales tax holidays, down from 19 in 2010.  Retailers in border cities such as Kansas City, St. Louis and St Joseph could experience especially busy weekends as neighboring Kansas, Illinois and Kentucky do not sales tax holidays.

Missouri’s back-to-school campaign is one of the most extensive of the 17 states.  The allowance for computer purchases up to $1,500 is the highest of any state, while the inclusion of clothing and footwear up to $100 per item is competitive with any of the other states.

Tax free holidays do have critics.  The Washington D.C. based think tank Tax Foundation claims the campaigns do not promote economic growth or increase consumer purchases, but only shift the timing of those purchases.

That sentiment is shared by another Washington think tank, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities , which focuses on how fiscal policy affects low- and middle-income Americans.

The sales tax holiday in Missouri has been embraced by retailers, although it hasn’t distinguish itself from other major shopping events.

Jamie Whiteis with the Tanger Outlet Mall in Branson says it marks the high point of the current season of shopping.  “It’s busy this entire back to school season, but there a extra business this weekend” said Whiteis.

Morgan Crainshaw with Osage Beach Outlet Marketplace at Lake of the Ozarks says the tax holiday is one of several major shopping events at the venue.  “It’s definitely a big event for us this weekend , but it’s very comparable to other major weekends throughout the year, like Memorial and Fourth of July Weekend, Labor Day, etc.” Crainshaw said.

Missouri’s sales tax holiday was approved in a bipartisan vote by the legislature in 2004, and was signed into law by Democratic Governor Bob Holden.

Find a rundown of the items included in Missouri Tax Free Holiday below:

Clothing and Footwear: Including coats, diapers, shoes, and school uniforms. Up to $100 per item – no watches, handbags, or ties.

School Supplies: Including backpacks, art supplies, and globes. Up to $50 per purchase – no headphones, sporting equipment, or furniture.

Computers and Software: Including desktop systems, laptops, and peripherals. Up to $1,500 for computers and peripherals; up to $350 for software.

Graphing calculators. Up to $150.