Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

DeSantis approves sales tax holiday on hurricane and school supplies

With hurricane season starting June 1, DeSantis signed the bill while attending the annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published May 15

Hurricane-tested Floridians and back-to-school shoppers will be able to once again take advantage of sales-tax “holidays” as they prepare for the upcoming storm season and the new school year.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a tax package (HB 7123) that features the disaster-preparedness and school tax holidays, as well as relief for business owners who rent commercial space and storm-impacted farmers.

With hurricane season starting June 1, DeSantis signed the bill while attending the annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach.

Noting the Floridians have become hurricane “battled-tested” after hurricanes Matthew in 2016, Irma in 2017 and Michael last year, DeSantis said, “Hopefully, we won’t have to use that experience this year.”

DeSantis also used the event to announce he is making $25 million available through the state’s Small Business Emergency Loan Program to assist Panhandle farmers who sustained damage in Hurricane Michael as they enter the growing season. Also, he said he has used emergency powers to help local officials quickly access a federal program that provides cash advances that can be used to rebuild schools, government buildings and certain non-profit facilities.

The tax package was approved early this month as the 2019 legislative session ended. While it was promoted as providing $121 million in tax breaks, it is projected to cut state and local revenue by $87 million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

While the amount of tax savings is less than in prior years, the business community backed the package.

“Anytime you can give Floridians some needed tax relief is great,” said James Miller of the Florida Retail Federation.

“Both the back-to-school and disaster preparedness tax holidays remain one of the top priorities for our members year in and year out,” Miller added. “Not only do they provide tax relief for consumers, but they bring increased sales for our retailers. It’s something they really enjoy and something they look forward to each year.”

DeSantis formally received the tax package Tuesday and wasted little time in announcing plans to sign the bill, which provides a seven-day “holiday” for disaster preparation starting May 31, a day before the six-month hurricane season begins.

During the holiday period, sales taxes will not be collected on items such as battery packages and non-electric food storage coolers that sell for $30 or less; self-powered light sources that cost $20 or less; tarpaulins, self-powered radios, ground anchor systems, and weather-band radios that cost $50 or less; and portable generators that cost $750 or less.

The disaster-preparation holiday is projected to save shoppers $5.5 million in state and local taxes.

The back-to-school tax holiday, running from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6, will temporarily eliminate sales taxes on clothes that cost $60 or less, school supplies that cost $15 or less and personal computers that cost less than $1,000. The school holiday is projected to save shoppers $41.7 million.

Another key part of the package is a reduction in the sales tax on commercial leases from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent, which accounts for $27.3 million of the savings next fiscal year. The lower rate will go into effect Jan. 1, which is halfway through the 2019-2020 fiscal year. It is expected to provide $57.1 million in savings the following fiscal year, when it will be in place for 12 months.

The package also provides refunds on taxes paid for fuel used between Oct. 10, 2018, and June 30, 2019, for agricultural shipments and to haul hurricane debris in Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon and Wakulla counties.

Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 in Mexico Beach and caused major damage in many of those counties.

Farmers could also get refunds on taxes for repairs made to farm buildings and fencing damaged by the storm.

The state’s agricultural industry suffered an estimated $1.5 billion in losses from Michael, with the timber industry accounting for most of the damages.

The state has already spent about $1.6 billion in helping Northwest Florida recover from Michael, and the Legislature has budgeted just over $220 million for additional storm relief during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“We’ve done a lot. We’re going to do a lot more,” DeSantis said.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks to reporters in Tampa on Aug. 21. Delays in his filling vacancies on the state's five water management district boards have twice led to those agencies canceling meetings to levy taxes and set budgets, which one expert said was unprecedented. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    Vacancies lead to canceling two agencies’ budget meetings.
  2. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  3. Richard Swearingen, Florida's Commissioner of the Department of Law Enforcement, testifies before state lawmakers on Monday. Florida Channel
    But law enforcement officials are getting behind a “threat assessment system.”
  4. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  5. The Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach. JOE RAEDLE  |  Getty Images
    It wasn’t immediately clear how much Mar-a-Lago would charge to host the Marine Corps Birthday Ball — or even if it might do so for free.
  6. In this March 24, 2018, file photo, crowds of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in San Francisco. JOSH EDELSON  |  AP
    ‘Guns are always a volatile topic in the halls of the legislature,’ one Republican said.
  7. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  8. Tonight's LGBTQ Presidential Forum is hosted by Angelica Ross of FX's Pose. Twitter
    A live stream of the event and what to watch for as 10 candidates meet on stage in Iowa.
  9. In this April 11, 2018, file photo, a high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass.  [AP Photo | Steven Senne] STEVEN SENNE  |  AP
    "The department does not appear to have the authority to do anything.”
  10. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos listens to a speaker share an opinion about a city matter during a city council meeting at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.  On Thursday, the Clearwater City Council rejected the mayor's resolution urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons.  [Times files] TIMES FILES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    However, the city did pass a resolution calling for more modest gun control measures.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement