Parents of school-age children may be flocking to area stores this weekend to take advantage of a tax break.

Smart move when you consider shoppers are expected to spend as much as $82.8 billion this year on back-to-school supplies and clothing — down slightly from last year's $83.6 billion.

Despite the drop, this year is in the top three of most expensive back-to-school shopping seasons, a survey shows.

The National Retail Federation estimates families shopping for students in grades kindergarten through high school will spend around $685 to get their student ready to return to the classroom.

Back-to-school spending for college students is expected to reach an all time high — $55.3 billion. College students will spend about $942 to prepare for the upcoming school year.

According to the NRF survey, shoppers will spend the most on clothing - about $237. They also are expected to spend about $187 on electronics such as computers, calculators and phones, $139 on shoes and $122 on school supplies such as notebooks, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes.

College students will shell out the most on electronics — $229 — and about $153 on clothing and accessories, $109 on dorm or apartment furnishings, $102 on food and at least $53 on collegiate branded gear.

With all that spending, looking for a good deal is wise.

That's why many are expected to take advantage of Ohio's tax-free weekend — Friday through Sunday — for school supplies, clothing and other items.

'Expensive time'

“Families deserve a tax break at back-to-school time,” Lora Miller, director of governmental affairs and public relations for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants. “It's a very expensive time. School clothes and supplies can be significant for families especially when they have multiple children.”

The savings from not paying sales and use tax can add up quickly for families, she said.

The tax break is not only a win for families, businesses and the state benefit too, Miller said.

Research by the merchants group has found the state does not lose money on the tax holiday but rather breaks even.

“We can't be more pleased that it has been made permanent,” Miller said. “It's a great value for all parties.”

This is the fourth year the state has offered the tax-free holiday. Gary Gundmundson, communications director for the Ohio Department of Taxation, said the holiday had to be approved by lawmakers each year. However, legislation has declared a permanent sales tax holiday on the first Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of August each year.

Here's are some things you need to know about the tax-free weekend.

Q: When is the sales tax holiday?

A: The holiday begins at 12 a.m. Friday and continues through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Q: What qualifies for the tax exemption?

A: An item of clothing priced at $75 or less; a school supply item priced at $20 or less; and an item of school instructional material priced at $20 or less.

Q: Is there a limit on the total purchase amount?

A: No. The qualification is determined by item. For example, you can buy multiple pairs of jeans totaling $75 each tax free.

Q: Specifically, what items are eligible for the sales tax holiday?

A: Clothing: shirts, pants, shoes, insoles for shoes, underwear, socks, jackets, gloves, hats, lab coats, bathing suits and other clothing items.

School supplies: binders, bookbags, calculators, cellophane tape, blackboard chalk, compasses, composition books, crayons, erasers, folders (expandable, pocket, plastic, and manila), glue, paste, and paste sticks, highlighters, index cards, index card boxes, legal pads, lunch boxes, markers, notebooks, paper, loose leaf ruled notebook paper, copy paper, graph paper, tracing paper, manila paper, colored paper, poster board, construction paper, pencil boxes and other school supply boxes, pencil sharpeners, pencils, pens, protractors, rulers, scissors, and writing tablets.

School instructional materials: reference books, maps and globes, textbooks and workbooks.

Q: Are there clothing items that are not eligible?

A: Clothing accessories such as hair barrettes or bows, cosmetics, purses, sun glasses and jewelry, as well as sports equipment such as bats or cleats are not eligible for the tax-free savings.

Q: Can I use coupons and store discounts and still take advantage of the tax exemption?

A: If a retailer offers a discount and it is within $20 or less for school items or $75 or less for a clothing item, the exemption will apply.

Q: Does the tax deal apply to online retailers?

A: Yes, but the seller's location will determine if the exemption will apply. For instance, if it is 12:30 a.m. Friday where the buyer is located but they are purchasing the item from an online retailer on the West Coast where the time is 9:30 p.m. Thursday, the buyer would not receive the tax exemption.

To learn more about the sales tax holiday, visit www.tax.ohio.gov.

SOURCE: OHIO DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION