Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Tax Free Sales: Are They Worth It

 Many states offer tax free sales during back to school season.  The tax free sales are when states temporarily suspend state and/or local sales taxes on certain goods.  The tax free sale was created to help parents save money on back to school shopping, but items you buy during the sales tax holiday don't have to be used for school.

Tax free sales may cause you to buy an item you didn’t want simply because it is covered under the tax free sale.  Tax free sale days are not thought about with the consumer in mind.  Some tax free sales are one day or one weekend which may not be enough time to take advantage of the sale if a consumer is working late, has other obligations, is out of town or if another major event is occurring in that city such as a marathon, political event, etc. 

There are some restrictions on when the tax free sale applies, for example some states require you spend at least $100 to avoid paying taxes on a purchase.  This does not benefit the consumer and only benefits the company.  If you spend $100 with a sales tax of 6% you would end up paying a total of $106.  Without the sales tax you spend only $100 but if the items you purchased were already marked up and it cost you $6 or more in gas to drive to the store, did you really save any money?

However, the tax free sale helps small businesses owners gain new customers and get free publicity. It also helps keep money in the community and provides jobs to local residents.   Companies that participate in tax free sales get free advertising and if they are lucky enough to have relationships with local or state politicians they can get even more free advertising through their public support of the tax free sale.  Here are 14 tips to consider when shopping during a tax free sale.

  1. Find out what items are exempt.  If items are not labeled ask the store manager to clearly identify what items are exempt.
  2. Do research.  If you shop in a state that has a tax free sale you may still have to pay local taxes.  You will save the most money by shopping in areas where state and local taxes are waived.
  3. Know the Prices.  Know the prices before you go shopping. Some stores mark up prices to offset the cost of consumers not paying taxes.  If you don’t you may end up paying more than the original cost of the item.
  4. Plan Ahead. Don’t think about just the first month of school, plan ahead for a few months when shopping during tax free sales.
  5. Compare Prices.  Don’t go overboard and spend more than you can afford.
  6. Go early.  Shop early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the fights for parking spaces.
  7. Create a list.  Create a shopping list and stick to it. Don’t get wooed by advertisers sales and spend more money than you planned.
  8. Use Coupons. Use coupons to save even more money.
  9. Use rewards.  Use cash back rewards shopping portals such as or to save more money.
  10. Shop in Tax Free Areas. If you live near a state that is tax free like Delaware factor in the cost of gas and compare prices to see if shopping there will help you to save money.
  11. Shop online. Shop online if there is no physical store in your state to take advantage of the tax free sale.
  12. Walk away. Be prepared to walk away from a purchase if the total cost is more than you desire to spend.
  13. Tax Free Card. Ask stores to offer a Tax Free shopping card similar to the Global Blue Tax Free Shopping Card. After you swipe your card, your Tax Refund Check is issued instantly.
  14. Ask for less tax.  Ask your congressman to permanently reduce the overall sales tax for all purchases to help consumers save money or reduce sales tax at least temporarily for 3 – 6 months. 

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