Tax-free holiday on school supplies begins this week


Ohio’s tax-free weekend on back-to school supplies begins Friday, offering shoppers savings and area retail stores a chance to increase sales.

During the three-day, tax-free holiday, shoppers don’t have to pay taxes on clothing costing less than $75 per item and school supplies and instructional material costing less than $20 per item. All Ohio stores — both physical and online — are required to participate in the sales tax holiday.

“The sales tax holiday is a win-win, both for families and businesses,” said Ohio Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg. “It provides a middle class tax cut for families who are sending kids back to school. It provides a spike for retailers who might be struggling, competing with online retailers right now. And it provides a spike for them in August which is typically a slow time.”

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Melissa Gallagher, a fourth-grade teacher at Orchard Park Elementary School, said she easily spends at least $100 out of her own pocket on school supplies alone. 

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Many teachers end up stocking their classrooms with the same school supplies they put on their students supply lists because they usually run out halfway through the year, she said. But with school start dates moving up earlier every year, including some area schools starting as early as Aug. 6, the Kettering City Schools teacher said the holiday doesn’t help as much as it could.

“The driving force behind that is spring testing,” Gallagher said. “The earlier we get into school, the more time we have to teach.”

Moving the holiday up at least a week or two would help parents and teachers more because many cannot wait until the first weekend in August, Gallagher said.

Most local stores started rolling out back-to-school merchandise the week after the Fourth of July. But if parents and teachers plan to shop during the tax-free weekend, local store managers recommend going early Friday.

“Hit the first day running,” said Mike Burkhart, store director of the Meijer at 5858 N. Springboro Pike in Moraine. “Get what you need because the hot items will go quick. It’s hard to stay in stock on them.”

Friday before 5 p.m., when many parents get off work, will be the best time to shop if trying to avoid crowds, but Saturday will be “wall to wall people,” said Raheem Muahmmad-Terrell, executive team leader for the Target at 2490 N. Fairfield Road in Beavercreek.

But shoppers who plan to shop Saturday or Sunday will still find deals, said Ashley Phillips, the store manager of the Walmart at 8800 Kingsridge Drive in Centerville.

“Starting early in the morning is when we’re going to have the widest assortment and then we’re going to restock it every single night,” Phillips said.

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Retailers see anywhere between a 5 and 9 percent increase in sales during the tax-free weekend, which first began in 2015 in Ohio, according to Gordon Gough, president and CEO of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.

Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that made the tax-free holiday a permanent law earlier this year.

“We have data from the last two years that shows there is a large spike during the weekend,” Antani said. “We would like to create a Black Friday-like event during August.”

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While the holiday will save consumers some cash, it does cost the government. This year’s holiday is expected to reduce state sales and use tax revenues by $15.2 million and create a revenue loss of $3.7 million for counties and transit authorities, according to a Ohio Legislative Service Commission analysis.

“There certainly is going to be a tax revenue impact for the state, but the state is also going to see an indirect economic impact that helps offset that tax revenue impact,” said Chris Kershner, executive vice president for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

The increased activity by shoppers is expected to make up for the tax losses, with increased trips to restaurants, gas stations and other places consumers may spend money while out shopping during the weekend. That includes cross-border activity.

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Antani said its likely that Ohio will see shopping from neighbors to the west because Indiana does not offer a tax-free holiday. On the other side of the state, Kershner said the weekend helps keep some sales in Ohio, since neighboring Pennsylvania doesn’t charge sales tax on most clothing items or textbooks year round.

“In an era of online shopping becoming more and more prevalent it’s extremely important that we work with our government leaders and our businesses to have public/private partnerships to encourage support for our local retail establishments,” Kershner said.

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