Back to school: Ohio’s sales tax holiday underway

Ohio’s three-day sales tax holiday on clothing, school supplies and instructional materials is underway, and area stores expect to see large crowds on the eve of local school districts opening this month.

People are expected to spend record amounts on both school and college supplies after many did not have to last school year due to the pandemic, according to National Retail Federation survey.

“The pandemic forced parents and their school-aged children to quickly adapt to virtual learning, and they did it with an incredible amount of resolve and flexibility,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We enter the new school year with plans to return to the classroom and retailers are prepared to help Americans find and purchase whatever they need to make this transition as seamless as possible.”

According to that survey, families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $848 on school items, which is $59 more than last year. Total back-to-school spending is expected to reach a record $37.1 billion, up from $33.9 billion last year and an all-time high in the survey’s history.

The survey also found college students and their families plan to spend an average of $1,200 on college or university items, an increase of $141 over last year. Over half ($80) of this increase is due to increased spending on electronics and dorm furnishings. Total back-to-college spending is expected to reach a record $71 billion, up from $67.7 billion in 2020.

The annual sales tax holiday weekend started in 2015 and was made permanent in 2018 by the Ohio General Assembly, Gary Gudmundson, communications director for the Ohio Department of Taxation, said.

The sales tax holiday runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, when all sales, county and transit sales and use taxes are exempted on certain items.

Items sold by mail, telephone, email or internet qualify for the sales tax exemption, if the customer orders and pays for the item and the retailer accepts the order during the exemption period for immediate shipment, even if delivery is made after the exemption period.

“There is no differentiation of the type of consumer who can take advantage of this sales tax holiday,” Gudmundson said.

The amount tax exempt is determined item by item not to the purchase as a whole, he said.

“The only distinction is that items used in a trade or business are not exempt under the sales tax holiday,” he said. “The powers that be believe it is worth offering families of Ohio this reduction by foregoing the sales and use taxes to help them make these purchases.”

The general manager of the Dayton Mall, one of the area’s largest retail hubs, said the sales tax holiday weekend historically has been tremendously beneficial to the retailers there.

Dave Duebber said the mall’s 127 stores and services see a lot of traffic during the sales tax holiday as families gear up for back to school.

“They catch great sales in many of our stores and it helps out a lot of families and a lot of retailers, many of whom are trying to recover from the pandemic,” he said. “It’s very beneficial to families as a lot of stores run specials during the tax-free weekend. If you need to shop, it’s a great weekend.”

Duebber said the mall, which is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday will be extending its hours to 9 p.m. starting Aug. 16. The Sunday hours will remain from noon to 6 p.m.

Mark Gunton of Kettering was shopping Friday but said he wasn’t waiting for the tax-free holiday.

“With the tax rate at 6.5%, it’s not worth waiting in line. It’s fine just to buy it. We see it, we buy it,” he said.

When asked if the tax-free holiday was worth it, Gunton said, “I think it could be for high school student who have a larger inventory, but for a pre-K student it isn’t worth it.”

Items eligible for sales tax holiday

  • An item of clothing priced at $75 or less;
  • An item of school supplies priced at $20 or less; and
  • An item of school instructional material priced at $20 or less.

A full list of items can be found at the Ohio Department of Taxation FAQ page.

Source: Ohio Department of Taxation

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