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House pitches tax holiday, lease tax cut

A tax-cut package centered on reducing a lease tax paid on commercial property was unveiled Tuesday by the Florida House.

The $102.4 million package, which will get its first hearing next week, also includes a three-day back-to-school sales tax “holiday” on clothes, school supplies and computers and a seven-day tax “holiday’ on hurricane supplies.

“Compared to recent years, the composition of the package is fairly simple,” House Ways & Means Chairman Bryan Avila, a Miami Springs Republican, said.

The proposal is a first step as House and Senate leaders will negotiate a final tax package before the scheduled May 3 end of the legislative session. Also, House members could seek changes, such as a proposal by Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican, to cut the communications-services tax.

“I’m hopeful it will be included in the tax package,” Fischer said.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, offered support for Fischer’s proposed cut in the communications services tax, which is collected on cell-phone bills and cable and satellite television bills. She also suggested cuts in taxes on textbooks and menstruation-related items.

“We hear a lot of conversation around the tampon tax and things like that,” Eskamani said. “I’d love to make sure when it comes to those necessities for women and girls and families, including diapers, (to) see if there is a way to include that in the tax package.”

The House tax proposal matches Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal on the school and hurricane sales-tax holidays.

The school holiday period in early August would allow shoppers to avoid paying sales taxes on clothing priced at $60 or less, school supplies at $15 or less and on the first $1,000 on personal computers.

The other tax holiday is timed for the June 1 start of the annual hurricane season.

Rep. David Santiago, a Deltona Republican, asked if the hurricane holiday could be made a floating event, timed in advance of approaching storms.

Avila said it’s better to fix the date because of the randomness of storms, including years in which there are no storms.

Business groups have long lobbied to reduce the sales tax on commercial leases, which is currently 5.7 percent. The tax was reduced from 5.8 percent last year.

Under the new proposal, the House would reduce the rate further from 5.7 percent to 5.35 percent. That would produce a savings of $47.9 million in 2020, when it would only be in place half of the fiscal year. The savings would grow to an estimated $99.9 million a year.

The House proposal also would amend rules for non-profit hospitals to qualify for charitable tax exemptions.

Last year, lawmakers approved a $171 million tax package that offered a three-day back-to-school tax holiday; a seven-day disaster-preparation tax holiday; and property-tax breaks stemming from such things as damage from hurricanes and tropical storms.

Also included in the package was a 9 percent reduction in traffic fines for motorists who attend driver-improvement courses.

A reduction of the communications-services tax on cell-phone and cable-TV bills was the centerpiece of a $372.4 million package in 2015.

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