Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Business

Sales tax holiday to extend to computers, tablets, e-readers

Anyone in the market for a tablet, laptop, e-reader or non-recreational software might want to wait a few months.

For the first time, the state is expanding its annual back-to-school sales tax holiday to cover certain electronic products selling for up to $750. This year's tax holiday is Aug. 2-4.

"It will give thousands of Florida families an opportunity to buy their first computers or upgrade the ones they own," said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, which pushed for the exemption.

The break on state and local sales tax extends to any electronic book reader, laptop, desktop, handheld, tablet or tower computer. It does not include cellphones, video game consoles, digital media receivers, or devices that are not primarily designed to process data. Also covered are keyboards, mice, personal digital assistants, monitors (except those with TV tuners), modems, routers and non-recreational software.

For buyers, even those who don't have school-age kids, the exemption can translate to big savings. In Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas counties, where the sales tax is 7 percent, the savings on a $499 Apple iPad would be nearly $35. In Hernando County, with its 6.5 percent sales tax, the savings would be more than $32.

The sales tax exemption will also apply to online purchases from retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence in Florida, such as Best Buy and Target, that normally charge sales tax on purchases delivered to the state.

"For three days this year, Best Buy gets to play by the same rules as Amazon,'' said Florida Retail Federation spokesman John Fleming.

State Rep. Larry Ahern, a Republican from Seminole who introduced the House version of the bill, said he supported adding electronic devices to the list because of their widespread use in schools.

"There are so many things that parents have to buy for kids going back to school,'' he said. "This was a good addition because it's a fairly large purchase.''

As in past years, clothing and shoes up to $75 will be tax exempt, along with school supplies up to $15. That includes pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, notebooks, notebook paper, legal pads, binders, lunch boxes, construction paper, markers, folders, poster board, composition books, poster paper, scissors, cellophane tape, glue or paste, rulers, computer discs, protractors, compasses and calculators.

All clothing, backpacks, wallets and bags up to $75 are covered, excluding briefcases, suitcases and garment bags, watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas and handkerchiefs. All footwear is also tax-free, except skis, swim fins, inline skates and skates.

The Florida Legislature approved the first sales tax holiday in 1998 to help families stock up for the upcoming school year. Over the years, the number of tax-free days has been shortened but the eligibility list and price limits on purchases have increased.

The Legislature estimates this year's sales tax holiday will save shoppers statewide $29.3 million on clothing and school supply purchases and $5.4 million on electronic devices.

Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.

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