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Consumer Updates

Guide to back-to-school shopping during the tax-free weekend

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Better Business Bureau
August 16, 2012 | 2,881 views | Post a comment

Annual Sales Tax Holiday runs Aug. 17 -- 19

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending will reach $83.8 billion this year, ranking back-to-school shopping as the second largest shopping event of the year. While the tax-free weekend offers a great opportunity to stock up on the necessary back-to-school items, families need to plan ahead to get the best buy for their buck.

The Texas tax-free law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced less than $100 from sales and use taxes. The tax-free exemption applies to purchases made in-store, online and via mail. A complete list of items that qualify for exemption can be found on the Texas Comptroller’s website.

While families can expect to save about $8 for every $100 they spend on tax-free items, many retailers will also be promoting back-to-school sales that may not include tax-free exemptions.

To save time and money, families should:

· Set a budget. Decide how much you are willing to spend per person a few days in advance. Include children in the process of creating the budget to teach them responsible money management techniques.

· Take inventory. Before hitting the stores, take inventory of items you already have. You may have leftover supplies from the previous school year. Look around the house for reusable items such as backpacks, lunchboxes, calculators and rulers.

· Know the difference between “Back-to-School Sale” and tax-free items. Retail stores may advertise back-to-school sales because they know consumers are buying items for the upcoming school year. Certain discounts will still have taxes applied to them unless the item appears on the state comptroller’s tax-free list.

· Shop with a list. After taking inventory, create a shopping list and stick to it. This will help you stick to your budget, avoid costly impulse purchases and ensure nothing is forgotten. Additionally, many schools have specific dress codes you’ll want to keep in mind before spending money on clothes the school may not allow.

· Have your schools required items lists handy. Schools will often provide parents with a list of required items for the school year. Many retail stores will also have these lists available. Use these lists as a guide to determine what is needed and what the school may not allow.

· Check for refund and exchange policies. Be sure you can exchange or return items that are purchased during this time period. Keep in mind some items may be non-refundable or have restocking fees associated with a return.
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