Take advantage of the sales tax holiday

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Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant

Have you ever purchased something, marveled at yourself for getting a good price, and then felt a little deflated when the real total is displayed – tax included?

Often, the amount you pay in sales taxes is negligible. You don’t really notice it until you make a large purchase or lots of little purchases combined. In my experience, it seems like the sales tax always cancels out the money I save using coupons.

The beginning of August, however, marks a temporary reprieve for those of us who cringe when the displayed subtotal turns to the total you owe.
Ohio will hold its sales tax holiday beginning at 12 a.m. Aug. 3, and it will run through the weekend until 11:59 p.m. Aug. 5.
Though the holiday had been approved year-to-year, this year, Ohio lawmakers and the governor

approved a permanent sales tax holiday that will be held on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of August. On these days, consumers won’t have to pay state and county sales taxes on approved items.

This is a great time of year to purchase school supplies, but also to stock up on fall and winter clothing.

In 2015, Ohio consumers saved about $3.3 million in taxes on $46.75 million in back-to-school purchases. While consumers didn’t pay sales tax on these purchases, the state still came out of the deal not too shabby, according to research by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, which is commissioned by the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.

Sales of items that weren’t exempt from sales tax generated $8 million in taxes, leading to a net benefit to the state of $4.7 million in additional tax revenue.

Wondering how you can take advantage of this deal? It helps if you need school supplies or supplies for your own personal home office (as long as it’s not for business purposes.) Much of what is considered tax-exempt falls under this category, including school instructional materials and school supplies like book bags, pencils, markers and others.

You can also use the holiday, however, to purchase clothing – anything from shoes to coats, diapers, shirts and even wedding apparel (though there is a price limit).

To qualify, school supplies must be priced at $20 per item or less, and school instructional materials must be priced at $20 per item or less.

Clothing must be priced at $75 per item or less, and the clothing cannot be work- or recreation-related, such as protective gear or sports items like spiked athletic shoes and shoulder pads.

If you have a coupon, you still can use it, and it can help you because if, when applied, it takes you below that price limit, the item you’re buying will be eligible for the exemption. This applies to all discounts, even if a retailer’s coupon or loyalty card is required to secure the discount.

However, if a retailer accepts a coupon that entitles the retailer to third-party reimbursement, such as a manufacturer’s coupon, the discount will not reduce the item’s sales price for purposes of determining eligibility for the exemption.

When it’s all said and done, you won’t save a crazy amount of money. Even if you buy $100 worth of eligible purchases, we’re only talking a savings of $7 or so, depending on the location of the store. And that $7 might not be worth the long lines of people eager to take advantage of this deal as well.

But for me, I look at it as a couple free cups of coffee, license to impulse buy something you might otherwise not need, and the satisfaction that when the subtotal pops up on the screen, that’s the only number you’ll see at checkout.

Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.

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