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BBB Tips: Back to School Shopping Shouldn’t Break the Bank

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It may seem like summer vacation just began, but it’s already time to start thinking about the new school year! As parents look to check off supplies on their child’s back-to-school list, the upcoming Tax Free Weekend and shopping online both offer great opportunities to stock up and save on some of your shopping needs.

This year’s Sales Tax Holiday is Aug. 10-12. According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, you can buy most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks tax free from a Texas store or from an online or catalog seller doing business in Texas. A list of qualifying items can be found here.

To make the most out of Tax Free Weekend this year, Better Business Bureau recommends shoppers:

  • 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.
  • Read the fine print. Retailers aren’t required to collect state and local sales or use tax on most clothing and footwear sold for less than $100 during Tax Free Weekend. The exemption applies to items that sell for less than $100, regardless of how many items are sold on the same ticket.
  • Save your receipts. You’ll need them if you want to make an exchange or return an item. Remember some items are non-refundable or have a 30-day return period.

Many parents and students are relying more on websites to get their shopping done. According to BBB’s 2017 Risk Report, online purchase schemes are the riskiest type of scams. BBB offers the following advice to make sure you get what you pay for.

  • Use a secure site. When shopping online, the first step is to make sure the URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The “s” in “https” stands for secure, which means your information is being protected. Click on the lock symbol to verify that it is activated.
  • Look up the website’s privacy policy and contact information. If it is not clearly listed, or they only have an email as the point of contact, take that as a big red flag and shop elsewhere.
  • Protect your personal information. Be sure to use your credit card instead of your debit card, as credit cards not only provide additional protection, but it’s also easier to dispute a fraudulent charge with a credit card. Also, be extremely wary of any website or store that asks for your child’s personal information to access special deals.

For more tips on school shopping, head to www.bbb.org/backtoschool.

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