Tax-free weekend: What you need to know

Zoe Greszler • Aug 2, 2018 at 2:00 AM

Back-to-school shopping can get expensive, especially if you have multiple students in your family. To help lighten that load the Ohio General Assembly adopted legislation to create the “holiday” for this weekend, creating a (mostly) “tax-free weekend.”

This year’s holiday is from 12 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The bill, which gives shoppers a tax break on clothing and school supplies, will make the holiday a permanent part of the annual calendar, now scheduled to take place the first weekend of every August. 

What better way to take advantage of the holiday than to support the small-town shops that support our community and schools? Shopping local this weekend will be good for retailers and customers alike, Huron County Chamber of Commerce executive director Kelly Lippus said.

“It’ll benefit (local retailers) as long as they make sure to publicize and advertise it, to remind people they have the supplies they need and (that fall under the tax break). It think it could help boost sales,” she said.

“I think of Amez Boutique. How many kids are going back to school here and we don’t have to wear uniforms in the Norwalk Public Schools. you can stop in there first and get some nice, new back to school outfits. It benefits Amez to get some weekend sales and helps you get your shopping done, while supporting the local shops.”

County auditor Roland Tkach agreed.

“Over the last few years (sales tax) has been steady, but the real beneficiaries here are the stores,” he said. “It gets people out in the buying mood and there’s probably other items that they’re going to be buying too besides (those qualifying for the tax break). It’ll all benefit the local economy and it’s all good.”

Lippus said when considering where to shop, she’d like to see shoppers think of the Mom-n-Pop shops first.

“Anybody, especially in a small community like ours, everyone should always think about where they can buy local first,” she added.

“It’s not always the case that you can find it here; sometimes you have to go to the big-box stores, but we need to switch the mindset to shopping locally first. Especially on a weekend where we have the tax-free holiday, local businesses should definitely be thought of first. And there’s a responsibility of local retailers to put it out there and remind shoppers — do (a) Facebook event, publicize what you have to offer and advertise it.”

Like most good deals though, the sales tax holiday comes with a few asterisks.

The qualifying items, according to the state taxation department, are clothing items priced at $75 or less, school supplies worth $20 or less and school instructional material priced at $20 or less 

Here’s what you need to know about what you can (and can’t) get a tax break on and where you can find some local and area deals to get the biggest bang for you buck. The Ohio Department of Taxation’s extended Q&A section on the holiday also has more details. 


What qualifies?


Each individual item must be $75 or less. So, if you buy an $80 pair of shoes, you’ll have to pay the full tax due on it. 

The state defines clothing as “all human-wearing apparel suitable for general use.” 

That includes, but is not limited to: Shirts; blouses; sweaters; pants; shorts; skirts; dresses; uniforms (athletic and non-athletic); shoes and shoe laces and insoles; boots; overshoes; slippers; steel-toed shoes; underwear; socks and stockings; hosiery; pantyhose; footlets; coats and jackets; rainwear; general winter wear, caps; belts and suspenders; neckties; scarves; aprons (household and shop); lab coats; athletic supporters; bathing suits and caps; beach capes and coats; costumes; baby receiving blankets; diapers, children and adult, including disposable diapers; rubber pants; garters and garter belts; girdles; formal wear; and even wedding apparel.

School supplies

Each item has to be $20 or less. Again, if you buy that $150 graphing calculator, you’ll be paying tax on all of it.

The list of school supplies is a lot more specific, and the tax break only applies to the items listed: binders; book bags; calculators; cellophane tape; blackboard chalk; compasses; composition books; crayons; erasers; folders (expandable, pocket, plastic, and manila); glue, paste, and paste sticks; highlighters; index cards; index card boxes; legal pads; lunch boxes; markers; notebooks; paper (including loose-leaf ruled notebook, copy, graph, tracing, manila, colored and construction paper and poster board); pencil boxes and other school supply boxes; pencil sharpeners; pencils; pens; protractors; rulers; scissors; and writing tablets.

Instructional material

The state defines school instructional materials only as reference books, reference maps, globes, textbooks and workbooks. Those items are only tax-free if they’re $20 or less. 


What doesn’t qualify?

It’s important to note that the tax exemption doesn't apply to anything that you would use in business or trade, even if it rings up tax-free. The Ohio Department of Taxation says you are obligated to report the purchase and pay taxes on those items as part of your regularly filed tax returns.

Other than that exclusion of work purposes, you can purchase items tax-free, whether it’s for school, a gift or personal use. The holiday applies to items, not reasons for buying the items — with the exception of business and trade.

The state’s definitions exclude the following:


* Items purchased for use in a trade or business.

* Clothing accessories or equipment. Clothing accessories or equipment include: briefcases; cosmetics; hair notions; handbags; handkerchiefs; jewelry; non-prescription sun glasses; umbrellas; wallets; watches; and wigs and hair pieces.

* Protective equipment. Protective equipment includes: breathing masks; clean room apparel and equipment; ear and hearing protectors; face shields; hard hats; helmets; paint or dust respirators; protective gloves; safety glasses and goggles; safety belts; tool belts; and welders’ gloves and masks.

* Sewing equipment and supplies and sewing materials that become part of “clothing” including, but not limited to, buttons, fabric, lace, thread, yarn and zippers.

* Sports or recreational equipment. That includes: ballet and tap shoes; cleated or spiked athletic shoes; sports gloves and goggles; hand, elbow and shin guards; life preservers and vests; mouth guards; skates; shoulder pads; ski boots; waders; and wetsuits and fins.

* Belt buckles, patches, emblems and costume masks that are sold separately.

School supplies

Basically anything that wasn’t put on the state’s list doesn’t qualify for the tax break, as well as the items on the list bought for business and trade purposes.

Instructional material 

Again, only items on the list qualify and only if they aren’t for business use or more than $20.  


Places to shop

Here’s a list of some local and area retailers that may have some of the items you’re looking for, along with their hours and any deals they’re running for the holiday.

Amez Boutique 

This Norwalk clothing boutique will have special extended hours for the weekend, opening from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday to give you more sales-tax free shopping hours.

Shoppers also can earn “scratch and win a discount” cards all weekend with any purchase of $10 or more. Customers will get a card at checkout to scratch and reveal a discount good immediately on that purchase. Discounts will vary: $5 off, $10 off, 10 percent off or 15 percent off the purchase. A few will even win a free item of their choice.

E's Glow Tanning + Boutique

The tanning salon, which opened a clothing boutique in time for last year’s tax break, will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. While there aren’t any special sales planned, the business said it will have a couple of clearance racks. 


The shoe and accessory store will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The store’s back-to-school sale will feature adult shoes as low as $14.99 and children’s shoes as low as $9.99. A $10 voucher will also be given on purchases of $40 or more. 

Dollar stores 

While neither have special tax break sales or hours planned, Dollar General is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and Dollar Tree will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Big Lots

The discount store’s back-to-school sale features supplies as low as 50 cents and will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Pat Catan’s 

The craft and art supply store, which also sells some clothing items that qualify will announce its special tax-break, back-to-school sales in its Thursday newsletter, store clerks said. The store will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. 

It’s noteworthy for educators that a special school giveaway event is running now through Aug. 7 as well, with every purchase made with an A+ Educator Card qualifying the teacher to win a pack of back-to-school supplies for their class worth more than $135. The pack will be filled with markers, crayons, scissors and more to help teachers get ready for all of the little crafters. Each purchase made with an educator card at checkout will be automatically entered for a chance to win. One winner will be randomly selected from each Pat Catan's location.


JCPenney is advertising “extreme savings,” for the special weekend, including up to 60 percent off across the store from today through Sunday. Shoppers also can take advantage of extra savings with JCPenney Bonus Bucks. For every $50 spent in a single transaction, customers can earn $10 in Bonus Bucks, up to three times during the promotional event.

And though it doesn’t qualify for a tax break, it’s good to note students can get school-ready with its other promotional events. Now through Sept. 15, JCPenney salons are offering $10 children’s haircuts, for kindergarten through sixth-graders. Inside the JCPenney Optical shop, children 16 and younger can get one pair of eyeglasses for $39.99 or two for $69.99 through Sept. 29.

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