Virginia will be giving shoppers a tax break this weekend.

They’ll be able to buy qualifying school supplies, clothing and footwear; hurricane and emergency preparedness items; and Energy Star and WaterSense products without paying sales tax from 12:01 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

That can add up to a significant chunk of change, especially for parents of school-age children. The National Retail Federation’s annual back-to-school shopping survey estimates that families with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average $696.70, and those with college students are expected to spend an average $976.78. Those are the highest figures ever recorded in the history of the trade organization's survey.

The following items are eligible for the sales-tax holiday, according to the Virginia Department of Taxation and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management:

School supplies, clothing, and footwear

• Qualified school supplies: $20 or less per item

• Qualified clothing and footwear: $100 or less per item

Hurricane and emergency preparedness products

• Portable generators: $1,000 or less per item

• Gas-powered chainsaws: $350 or less per item

• Chainsaw accessories: $60 or less per item

• Other specified emergency preparedness items, including batteries, flashlights and radios: $60 or less per item

Energy Star and WaterSense products

• Qualifying Energy Star or WaterSense products purchased for noncommercial home or personal use: $2,500 or less per item

Detailed lists of all items that qualify for this weekend’s sales tax holiday can be found at

In conjunction with the tax holiday, kids can get their Harry Potter fix Saturday when Fredericksburg Parent magazine will host its "Wizarding Universe" back-to-school expo from noon to 4 p.m. at Spotsylvania Towne Centre. They can dress up in wizarding robes, bring a wand and take part in a costume parade and contest, among other activities. They can also make a wand, sign up for music lessons, rent a band instrument and see art and sports demonstrations.

The Salvation Army isn't forgetting children in need. It is running a national Stuff the Bus event Saturday in collaboration with Walmart. The retailer will have bins in front of all its stores where people can donate new school supplies that day. They can also go to use their local Salvation Army’s online Walmart Registry, which can be found at, to buy online and have donations shipped directly to that Salvation Army.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407