Sales tax holidays could be bigger, better in 2020

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The tax break is a big deal to families on tight budgets.

Sales tax holidays are a Florida perennial. But 2020 promises bigger and better ones for school supplies and disaster prep.

If momentum continues for Sen. Keith Perry‘s SB 542, back to school supplies will be tax exempt from July 31 to August 9.

The bill sailed through Appropriations Thursday, its third committee of reference, with a unanimous vote.

The Senate bill contemplates a ten-day holiday, up from the five days (Aug. 2 t0 Aug. 6) enacted in last year’s bill, and up from 2018’s three day holiday.

In each year’s legislation, the break on sales tax applies to specific school supplies ($15 or less), bags and backpacks ($60 or less), and any clothes or shoes. There would also be no sales tax on the first $1,000 of costs for a personal computer, tablet or similar device.

As late as 2018, computers were excluded.

The tax break is a big deal to families on tight budgets.

The National Retail Federation’s annual survey of American families found that families spend, on average, $700 per year on school supplies for each child in the PreK-12 system.

Per-capita costs for college students are higher still.

The Florida Retail Federation lauded the five-day holiday last year as a “nice boost” to the state’s economy. While it remains to be seen if a doubly-long tax reprieve doubles that boost, it certainly can’t hurt.

State Sen. Joe Gruters filed a bill (SB 524) reauthorizing a sales tax holiday for disaster preparedness, which also cleared Appropriations.

As originally written, the legislation would eliminate the sales tax on certain disaster supplies from May 29 through June 15 next year. Hurricane Season starts on June 1.

The legislation, unlike a bill ultimately passed last year that authorized a similar holiday, is not attached to a school supplies tax holiday.

The bill text also calls for a significantly longer disaster sales tax holiday. In 2019, the period to get a cut on taxes for hurricane supplies ran from May 31 through June 6. Gruters’ bill calls for a holiday more than twice as long.

Should the bill pass, consumers will get a break on reusable ice ($10 or less), flashlights ($20 or less), fuel tanks ($25 or less), battery packs and coolers ($30 or less) and tarps, tie-downs and radios ($50 or less). It would also lift sales tax on generators costing $750 or less. There would also be a break on impact-resistant windows bought in less than 20-unit bundles and on impact-resistant doors sold fewer than 10 at a time.

Other tax holidays are possible.

Republican state Rep. Tommy Gregory‘s bill that would allow for a one day sales tax holiday for hunting and fishing items is on the House calendar.

The full list of items exempted from the sales tax includes firearms, ammunition, camping tents and fishing supplies. Those fishing supplies cover rods, reels, bait and fishing tackle, but do not include supplies used for commercial fishing.

The Senate bill did not move through committees; however, the House version did.

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The News Service of Florida and Florida Politics’ Jacob Ogles, Melissa Razdrih & A.G. Gancarski contributed to this post.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


One comment

  • Thomas Knapp

    February 28, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Instead of complicated social engineering schemes — “no sales tax, but only at certain times and only for whatever special interest hobbyhorse the legislature happens to be riding at the moment” — why not just lower the state sales tax?

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