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Sales Tax Holiday in Florida: When are they taking place and what items are included?

Various states have announced sales-tax-free periods to encourage spending. Florida residents will begin their first sales tax-free period on 28 May.

Sales Tax Holiday in Florida: When are they taking place and what items are included?
Sirachai Arunrugstichai Getty Images

The Florida state Senate has passed a new bill that will establish three sales-tax-free periods, which will apply to various purchases throughout the summer. The first is set to begin on 28 May and lasts through 6 June, target items to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season. The second, dubbed “Freedom Week,” will cut all sales taxes associated with outdoor recreational activities and events. The third will take place during the “Back to School” season and apply to purchases, including clothes and academic materials.

Tax-free purchases for disaster preparedness

Earlier this year, Alabama (February 26-28), Texas (April 24-26), and Virginia (August 6-8) announced dates where residents will be able to buy materials to prepare for natural disasters tax-free. These states have offered these programs for many years; for example, Virginia first began offering a tax-free period to help residents prepare for natural disasters in 2006.

NOAA has predicted that this year’s hurricane season could bring an above-normal storm season. The models used by NOAA “predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.” Consumers will be able to buy various products sans sales tax including “flashlights under $40, batteries less than $50, tarps under $100, generators less than $1,000.” The period will last from 28 May to 6 June.

“Freedom-Week” in Florida will bring more sales tax exclusions

The benefits that consumers will take advantage of during “Freedom-Week” are a first for the state.

The second tax-free period will run from 1 July to 7 July and will encourage residents to purchase goods for outdoor recreational activities. Those in Florida will see no sales tax applied to purchases, including sunglasses, tends, kayaks, or canoes. However, there are limits on the price of goods that will be included. For example, sunglasses over $100 or kayaks/canoes over $500 will be taxed.

Additionally, those interested in purchasing tickets for “music events, sporting events, cultural events, specified performances, movies, museums, state park annual passes” scheduled between 1 July and 31 December will be able to purchase them sales tax-free.

Back to School tax-free period

The last tax-free period established through the new law will begin on 31 July and end on 9 August. Parents across Florida, and the country, are hoping that schools will be operating normally this fall, and the tax-free period will allow those with children to make purchases at a reduced cost. The products included during this period vary from clothes to electronics, including laptops.

A press release put out by the Florida senate outlines that the benefit applies to “backpacks costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less, and the first $1,000 of the sales tax price of personal computers or personal computer-related accessories.

Do these programs work?

The data on Sales Tax Holidays varies widely. The Tax Foundation has published various reports on the efficacy of these programs to spur economic growth. The Tax Foundation is a bipartisan organization but has often been considered to be more conservative. A 2017 and 2019 report argued against the implementation of sales tax-free windows. The results are based on findings that show that these events do not “promote economic growth or increases purchases.” Additionally, the researchers found that these “holidays” create unnecessary confusion and insert “the political process into consumer decisions.”

The experts argue that more focus should be placed on addressing problems within the tax code and that a good starting point could be “addressing real problems with their tax systems.” Although Florida’s tax holidays aim to help low-income residents, the authors state that these “holidays undermine efforts to provide legitimate relief to consumers in general and low-income individuals in particular.”