You ve filed your> Form 1040. Now, it s time to kick back with some ice cream, a massage and maybe even a weekend getaway, right? Not so fast. Tax-day deals often don t add up to savings.
Hoping to appeal to consumers expecting a refund, a slew of restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and other companies are offering tax-day deals. Offers include free mini cupcakes at Cinnabon, discount rooms at Trump International Beach Resort and (in some states) tax-free shopping at Whole Foods.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, the promotions are more gimmicky than real savings, says Randy Allen, an associate dean for Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management. There s not much competition on tax-day deals like there might be for Christmas or even President s Day, and so the discounts tend to be low. You might be able to find better ongoing deals through coupon sites and other saving strategies.
The other big hurdle comes down to two words: participating locations. Many national brands vary deals by region or local franchise, leaving it to individual stores to decide whether to offer a particular deal. There are always a few holdouts, says Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at Pace University in New York City. Although some chains offer a list of participating locations in their promotional materials, for most, you ll need to call around to figure out which location to visit.
Assess your finances before giving in to the lure of a tax-day marketing promotion. Most people would be better off stashing a refund in their emergency fund, or using it to pay down debt, says Benjamin Tobias, a certified financial planner in Plantation, Fla. Even purchasing something that was already on your to-buy list is better than making an unplanned splurge, says Sheryl Garrett, the founder of the Garrett Planning Network, a group of fee-only financial planners.
Ready to make April 15 a little less taxing? Here are 15 deals to consider:
While some of these offers are simply free samples, you may be on the hook for sales tax if the deal entails redeeming a coupon at checkout. Redeeming may also sign you up for the retailer's e-mail newsletter, Chiagouris says. Check the wording, and be prepared to be disappointed: Supplies can run out fast.
Cinnabon: Get two free cupcake bites on April 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Participating locations only. Deal valid while supplies last.
Maggie Moo s: On April 15, visit participating location for a free slice of ice cream pizza. The deal is valid from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Taco del Mar: Sign up online for the chain s Taxes Suck, Tacos Don t promotion, which gets you a print-out coupon good for a free taco on April 15 at participating Taco del Mar, Del Mar s and Mondo s locations. Read the online form carefully -- you can choose to sign up for the chain s email list, or get the freebie without forking over personal information.
Hotel prices are expected to fall another 1% this year, after dropping nearly 9% in 2009, according to PKF Consulting, a hospitality research firm that tracks rates. Before you book, check for other hotel promotions that may lead to more valuable savings.
BnBFinder.com: Several member inns have planned tax-relief specials. Some are offering traditional breaks: Mason cottage in Cape May, N.J., will give a $20 discount on 2010 stays booked by April 15. The Cameo Heights Mansion in Touchet, Wash., is going for marketing hype: It offers a free room to anyone who claims more than 15 dependants on his or her Form 1040.
Kimpton Hotels: For stays through April 30, book a Sweet Tax Relief package and you won t have to pay room tax, plus the hotel will give you a voucher for one tax-free meal at a hotel restaurant. The package also includes late checkout and a bag of candy (including, of course, Payday and 100 Grand bars). Available at participating hotels only.
The Orchard Hotels: San Francisco-based Orchard Hotel and Orchard Garden Hotel have several tax promotions. Use code REFUND when booking by April 15 to save $10.40 on the hotels best daily rates through June 15. Hotel restaurants are also offering nightly $10.99 dinner specials from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and W-2 drinks (two will drinks for the price of one).
Trump: Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., has a 1040 EZ package for stays between April 15 and May 30. You ll get three nights accommodation in a deluxe studio bay room for $1,040, with Trump picking up the room tax and $15 daily resort fee. You ll also get a daily breakfast for two, and two free 50-minute massages at the in-hotel spa. (Regularly, you d pay $1,356.51, a savings of 23%.)
Look for local deals as well as those from national chains. For example, New York's Energy Kitchen chain will offer a free lunch entree on April 15 to consumers who purchase a beverage between noon and 2 p.m. If you want to celebrate finishing your Form 1040, there are likely cheaper ways to do it, Allen says. Review other restaurant promotions to maximize savings.
P.F. Chang s China Bistro: Dine at P.F. Chang on April 15 and get a 15% discount on your bill. Discount does not apply to purchases of alcohol or Happy Hour specials.
McCormick & Schmick s: Visit the bar on April 15 for $10.40 dinner specials. While supplies last, bar patrons will also receive a $10.40 tax relief certificate (i.e., gift certificate) good for a future visit. On April 16, tax preparers can bring in a business card to receive a free dessert with the purchase of an entree, as well as their own $10.40 tax relief certificate (again, while supplies last).
Check with your local supermarket for incentives to fill your shopping cart on tax day.
Albertsons: Through April 15, buy a gift card for the grocery chain and get up to an extra 10% added onto its value for free. A gift card purchased for $300, for example, would be loaded with $330.
Whole Foods: Stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama will offer a tax-free shopping day on April 15.
Review your budget before shopping, Garrett says. Savings aren t usually substantial enough to justify making a purchase you otherwise wouldn t.
Baltimore Retail Week: From April 16 to 25, participating retailers in the city are hosting an unofficial tax-free week, waiving the sales tax on purchases.
Browning: Purchase a new Browning firearm before April 18 and Browning will reimburse you up to 8% in sales tax. Offer excludes Buck Mark Pistols, and is available only at participating retailers.
HydroMassage: Print out a coupon for a free massage on Tax Day (as well as April 16-18). Deal valid at participating locations only, and only so long as session appointments are available.