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Consumer Protection Tips for Sales Tax Holiday, Back-to-School Shopping

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine

July 31, 2018

COLUMBUS — As consumers prepare for Ohio’s sales tax holiday and the upcoming school year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is offering consumer protection tips.

Complaints about shopping (both in stores and online) are one of the most common types of complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section, which logged about 1,170 such complaints in 2017. Commonly reported problem areas include refund or return issues, billing issues, and claims of misrepresentation.

“We know many people will be shopping this weekend during the sales tax holiday, and we want to help them make the most of it,” Attorney General DeWine said. “It’s a good time to save money on clothes and other items, and there are things consumers can to do help minimize the risk of problems.”

During the sales tax holiday, the following items are exempt from sales and use tax:

  • Clothing priced at $75 per item or less;
  • School supplies priced at $20 per item or less; and
  • School instructional materials priced at $20 per item or less.

The Ohio Department of Taxation provides detailed information about the sales tax holiday on its website, including FAQs about what is and what is not exempt from sales tax during the holiday.

Tips for consumers include:

Plan ahead. The sales tax holiday runs from Friday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018. Consider in advance the kind of purchases you want to make, and review the Department of Taxation’s FAQs to understand what is and what is not exempt from sales and use tax during the sales tax holiday. Also research sellers’ reputations by reading customer reviews and checking for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau.

Understand return policies before you buy. In Ohio, sellers can choose to set their own return policies, including policies of “no returns,” but they should clearly tell you what their return policy is before you check out or complete the transaction. For example, the return policy shouldn’t be posted only on the back of a receipt.

Stay safe online. The tax holiday applies to qualifying online purchases in addition to qualifying in-store purchases. When shopping online, research websites you plan to use and make sure your connection is secure before you enter any personal information or payment details. (In the web address, look for the “s” in “https” or a lock symbol.) Also consider paying with a credit card, which generally gives you stronger protections to dispute unauthorized charges.

Check the exclusions and limitations of an offer. Exclusions and limitations must be clearly disclosed in advertisements, including online, so review terms and conditions carefully before you go to the store or make a purchase.

Keep your receipts. Maintaining a complete record of a sale will help you handle problems that may arise after the purchase. Keep receipts, copies of advertisements, photos of products, and other documentation until the transaction and billing process are complete.

Monitor your accounts. Regularly check your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized charges or unexpected activity. If you find problems, immediately notify your credit card provider or bank. The sooner you identify a problem, the sooner you can work to correct it.

Protect your personal information. Don’t carry around extra, unneeded credit cards, debit cards, or other sensitive information in your wallet or purse. Also limit giving out your personal information. Check privacy policies to see how sellers will use your information.

Watch for scams. Con artists operate year round. If you receive an unexpected message saying there’s a problem with your computer or you’ve won a grant you never applied for, it’s likely a scam. Be wary if someone requires you to pay using a gift card, wire transfer, or money order. Con artists often ask for payment using one of these methods.

Consumers who need help addressing a consumer problem or question should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

How to Save on Back-to-School Shopping Expenses

August 3-5 marks the 2018 Ohio Sales Tax Holiday, and during the weekend, shoppers won’t have to pay tax on certain items. Shoppers will have the opportunity to purchase multiple tax exempt items, such as:

  • Clothing priced at $75.00 or less
  • School supplies priced at $20.00 or less
  • School instructional material priced at $20.00 per item or less

According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, there is no limit on the amount of the total purchase. The qualification is determined by the item. Some items are not considered clothing, such as accessories, costumes, protective gear, sports gear, sewing supplies and belt buckles.

Ohio shoppers should be prepared to shop in crowded stores. BBB has some tips before the big weekend approaches:

Know items the holiday covers. It does not apply to household goods, furniture or vehicles.

Don’t be confused by advertising. Any “Back-to-School Sale” does not automatically mean tax-free. Retail stores might advertise these types of sales because they know consumers will be looking to purchase items for the upcoming school year. Items will still have taxes applied to them unless the item appears on the state’s tax-free list.

Determine a budget. Decide how much you are willing to spend per person in advance. Creating a shopping list can help you avoid costly impulse purchases.

Have a plan. Schools often provide parents with a list of required items for the school year. These lists are also available at many retail stores and on school websites.

Take inventory. Before hitting the stores, see which items you already have. You may have leftover supplies from the previous school year or items you can reuse.

Check for refund and exchange policies. Be sure you can exchange or return items purchased during this time period. Some items may be non-refundable or could have restocking fees associated with a return.

For some families, budgeting for back-to-school expenses may be difficult. Did you know that many local charities work to help make sure as many children as possible have what they need for their first day of school?

Ohio Newsboys Association, Inc. (Charity Newsies) is one such organization and a BBB Accredited Charity. Since 1907, Charity Newsies has helped provide clothing for over 500,000 school children in Franklin County.

This year, Charity Newsies is accepting applications from families who need help purchasing clothes for their children for both public and private schools. Over the next few weeks, there are multiple Application Day events at local libraries for families to attend and apply for assistance. It is important that applicants review the eligibility requirements and know which documents to bring.

Charity Newsies is not the only charity working to help school children in the Central Ohio area. Interested families can visit Hands On Central Ohio’s Online Directory to find more organizations looking to help with back to school challenges.

For charity reports and news, visit BBB’s Charity Microsite.

For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.

More Than 1 in 3 Americans Plan to Spend Up to $250 per Child on Back-to-School Supplies

Back-to-School season has arrived and parents and students are projected to spend $82.8 billion this year, nearly as high as last year’s $83.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

TopCashback.com, the US’s most generous cashback site, recently surveyed parents on their back-to-school shopping habits and found 35% of Americans plan to spend up to $250 per child while the most popular way to cut costs for class is shopping sales and deals (77%).

The survey polled a cross section of 1,366 adults, aged 18 and over. Below, please find some additional insight from the survey:

Most Popular Back-to-School Purchases:

  • School supplies (87%)
  • Clothes (84%)
  • Shoes (74%)
  • Backpacks (61%)
  • Electronics (26%)

Top 5 Places to Shop:

  • Walmart (69%)
  • Amazon (60%)
  • Target (54%)
  • Online (36%)
  • Clothing Stores (29%)

What Parents Are Most Looking Forward To:

  • Shopping for back-to-school supplies (41%)
  • Activities (41%)
  • Children will be out of the house (40%)
  • Quiet Time (37%)

TopCashback.com also found 84% of Americans will purchase back-to-school necessities online and in-store.

Top 3 Ways To Cut Costs for Class:

  • Shop sales and deals (77%)
  • Use a cashback site (68%)
  • Find a coupon (67%)

Teachers get back to school ready with retailer discounts and Ohio’s tax-free weekend

Back-to-school season can be both exciting, and stressful, especially for teachers. From finalizing lesson plans to getting their classrooms outfitted with all the necessary equipment, many teachers are racing to prep before the first bell rings.

Did you know, on average, 94% of public school teachers have spent their own money on school supplies without reimbursement?* To help relieve some of this financial burden, Meijer is offering teachers a 10 percent discount on any school or home office purchase now through September 30th. Plus, August 3 – 5 there’s a chance for even greater savings as its Ohio’s tax-free weekend.

*According to The National Center for Education Statistics

Meijer Offers Special 10 Percent Discount for Teachers throughout Entire Back-to-School Shopping Season

Teacher discount valid until Sept. 30; retailer offers competitive deals throughout back-to-school season

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Meijer is offering a special 10 percent discount to all teachers throughout the back-to-school shopping season on any school or home office purchase. The offer applies to all stores throughout the retailer’s six-state footprint and is valid until Sept. 30.

Teachers who present a current school ID at their local Meijer Customer Service desk will receive a coupon. The coupon can only be used for purchases made in store and restrictions apply. Teachers can obtain a new coupon any time they return to Meijer throughout the back-to-school shopping season.

“Although the start of the school year is right around the corner, many teachers are still enjoying their break too,” said Brandon Pasch, Divisional Merchandising Manager of Office and Entertainment for Meijer. “Offering a discount throughout the entire back-to-school shopping season enables teachers to shop when it is convenient for them. We recognize that teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pockets to cover school supplies, this discount is sure to help.”

Meijer reported that last year, teachers took advantage of the retailer’s popular home delivery service for back-to-school shopping, which promoted more than 300 items available for delivery. This year, the retailer is offering more than 1,600 office and back-to-school supplies available for home delivery, including top brands like Crayola, Five Star, Sharpie, Post-It, HP and Texas Instruments.

Meijer will be offering competitive back-to-school and back-to-college deals throughout the season for students, parents and teachers alike. Please visit www.meijer.com/backtoschool for details.

About Meijer: Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer that operates more than 240 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. A privately-owned and family-operated company since 1934, Meijer pioneered the “one-stop shopping” concept and has evolved through the years to include expanded fresh produce and meat departments, as well as pharmacies, comprehensive apparel departments, pet departments, garden centers, toys and electronics. For additional information on Meijer, please visit www.meijer.com. Follow Meijer on Twitter @twitter.com/Meijer and @twitter.com/MeijerPR or become a fan at www.facebook.com/meijer.

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Staff Reports