Parents' spending expected to increase as Ohio’s sales tax holiday nears

Add going back to school in Ohio to the growing list of rising costs for parents as the state readies for its annual sales tax holiday that begins Friday.

The holiday comes as inflation reached its highest levels in more than 40 years and as a report from the National Retail Federation predicts spending will eclipse last year’s record high.

“Necessities are the most protected segment of retail,” Mark Mathews, vice president of research development and industry analysis said, adding getting kids to school is essential for families. Consumers are cutting back on spending in other areas, working additional hours and taking other measures to cover costs for back-to-class shopping this season.

NRF’s report shows parents plan to spend $864 on back-to-school buys like clothing, supplies, electronics and other needs. That’s $15 more than last year and nearly $200 more than they spent four years ago.

Back-to-school means more than clothing and shoes, though, as school systems around the state produce supply lists for each student. While lists vary from district to district and grade to grade, many easily top $100.

One central Ohio school district has a supply list for seventh-graders that nears $150 when examining prices on Walmart.com and includes things like headphones, Clorox wipes, tissues and a scientific calculator.

That comes after Ohio schools received more than $6 billion total in additional federal COVID-19 relief monies.

For a single parent with two children making the federal poverty level of $24,000, back-to-school expenses can reach nearly the entire monthly income.

"The first thing that comes to mind is what impact inflation will have on low-income folks," Rob Moore, principal at Scioto Analysis, a Columbus-based policy analysis group, said. "If they are trying to put two kids in school, that's 90% of their income that month. Also, when school supplies can’t be paid for by families, teachers have to shell out for those. That lack of resources tends to ripple out to the rest of the community."

Ohio’s sales tax holiday begins Friday at 12:01 a.m and runs through Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Shoppers won’t pay state or county sales tax on clothing priced at less than $75 or school supplies or instructional materials priced less than $20.

That leaves out one of the NFR’s key spending categories – electronics – in Ohio. Computers, and other traditional back-to-school college buys like furniture, have had inflation increases from 2-22% since 2019, the report says.

Ohio’s holiday, which applies to both qualifying online and in-store purchase, eliminates the state’s 5.75% sales tax, as well as any county sales tax, which varies from county to county. In Franklin County, the state’s largest, the sales take is 7.5%.

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