As summer winds down, department store shelves stuffed with pool noodles, flip-flops and sunscreen have made way for notebooks, binders and colorful pencil boxes.
Back-to-school shoppers still have a chance to stuff their carts with these supplies — and many others — tax-free because of a two-week sales tax holiday approved by the Florida Legislature earlier this year.
Here’s what to know:
What is a sales tax holiday?
Sales tax holidays exempt consumers from paying sales tax on certain goods for a defined period, usually around events where a large portion of the population will be purchasing the same items in bulk.
Sales tax holidays are not a novelty in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Legislature signed into law six such holidays in 2023, including exemption periods for “freedom summer” live performances and events, disaster preparedness and back-to-school shopping.
Past years have seen a similar frequency of such holidays, but 2023 was the first time the Legislature approved two periods for back-to-school shopping. The first holiday began July 24, and it lasts until Aug. 6, with an additional two-week period Jan. 1-14 to replenish supplies in 2024. The holiday applies to both in-person and online purchases.
What types of goods are tax-exempt?
Typical school supplies, most types of clothes, learning aids/jigsaw puzzles and computers are all covered under the holiday, so long as each item is priced under $50, $100, $30 and $1,500, respectively. A full list of the products that qualify can be found here.
Although the umbrella for each category is broad, there are some notable exceptions. Books that are not otherwise exempt from sales tax do not qualify under the school supplies relief. Sports equipment such as pads and ice skates, clothing accessories like watches and jewelry and technology like cellphones and protective cases also don’t qualify. Any item sold in a set or unit with taxable products or purchased as a rental also is not exempt.
How do sales tax holidays impact the economy?
Despite removing sales tax for a brief period, holidays don’t have a substantial net effect on the economy, said Amanda J. Phalin, instructional associate professor at the University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business. Rather than spurring an increase in shopping overall, holidays oftentimes just delay when consumers buy the goods they already want until they are tax-exempt.
“If you know that a tax holiday is coming up, you’re going to hold off on buying something that you wanted to buy until the tax holiday,” Phalin said.
Sometimes, in response to the increased demand for these goods in a short time frame, some stores marginally increase the price of their goods to keep up with the increased traffic, Phalin said. But sales tax holidays do act as free advertising for stores selling exempt products, driving additional traffic during the 14-day window, she said.
Any store that obtained 5% or more of its statewide gross sales of tangible personal property in 2022 from the exempt goods is required to participate.