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State tax collectors get Valentine's Day gifts, too, in form of sales tax collections

Valentines couple gift

Happy Valentine's Day! This Feb. 14, the hubby and I are snuggling, but today it's mainly to keep warm. Like much of North America, we're dealing with a serious arctic blast.

I hope you and your sweetie are having a good Valentine's Day. And I hope you got exactly what you wanted from your love.

In many cases, it might be something simple or homemade. Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering financial ramifications mean that spending on Valentine's Day gifts this year has dropped. Those celebrating plan to spend an average $164.76, down $32 on average per person, from a record $196.31 in 2020 right before the pandemic hit, according to the National Retail Foundation (NRF).

Still, says the NRF, more than half of U.S. adults still plan to celebrate Valentine's Day 2021 and are expected to spend a total of $21.8 billion on gifts and other romantic commemorations.

And this commitment to celebrating love earns those 52 percent of St. Valentine's Day celebrants across the country this week's By the Numbers honors.

And where a traditional gift is given on this romantic holiday, state tax collectors likely also probably got a present in the form of sales tax. That amount is collected in 45 states and Washington, D.C. The only ones without a statewide tax on at least some purchases are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting has taken a look at the sales tax implications of some popular Heart Day goodies.

Hearts and flowers: Nothing brightens a room like a lovely bouquet of fresh flowers. Today, I'm making do with a couple of frozen roses that are toughing out the multiple days of below-freezing temps in our yard.

Frozen rose from our garden February 12 2021_Kay Bell photo
Photo by Kay Bell

If you got or gave a floral arrangement this Feb. 14th, you likely paid sales tax on it. Floral arrangements, says Wolters Kluwer, generally are taxable in all states except Michigan, where plants purchased at a business that accepts food stamps are excluded from sales tax.

And if you got your love something that lasts to show your commitment, food producing plants are tax-exempt in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin. Maybe I'll get the hubby a belated Valentine's Day chili pepper plant to replace the roses I fear aren't going to come back from the polar blast.

Toasting your love: I definitely could use a hot toddy right now! The whiskey, like other adult beverages containing alcohol, to be added to the tea is taxable in all states but Kansas and Massachusetts, says Wolters Kluwer.

Diamonds are everyone's best friend: If it's baubles you fancy, then make sure you budget for added tax. Jewelry purchases are generally taxable in every state that has a sales tax, notes Wolters Kluwer, although Connecticut has a higher rate for purchases of more than $5,000.

The global tax and accounting firm also points out that New York does not count specialty or jewelry teeth as exempt prosthetic dental devices, meaning those fancy grills are subject to Empire State sales tax.

Sweets for the sweet: Candy, of course, is a Valentine's Day (and every day!) favorite. That heart-shaped box of chocolates, notes Wolters Kluwer, will have sales tax added in 28 states.

Candy and sales tax map_Wolters Kluwer February 2021_attribution tag

If, however, you purchase the treats in Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming or the District of Columbia, the candy generally is exempt from sales tax.

A taste of love: The frigid weather isn't the only thing keeping the hubby and me home today. We're still following our own strict COVID-19 self-isolation protocols. So our Valentine's Day dinner that we make tonight is from generally non-taxed groceries I bought last week. Texas is among the 32 states, along with the five without sales taxes, that don't tack tax onto most groceries.

However, if you and your sweetheart are comfortable going out for a special meal or have it delivered, you'll owe tax on the comestibles. Wolters Kluwer notes that seven states — Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota — tax groceries at their normal sales tax rates. Six states — Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — tax groceries at a reduced tax rate.

You can find more about other Valentine's gifts and sales tax implications in Wolters Kluwer's special Valentine's Fast Facts and Sales Tax Knowledge fact sheet.

Finally, in addition to talking Feb. 14, we are talking taxes. That means both Wolters Kluwer and I have to issue the standard warning about tax treatment of items and circumstances being different not only from state to state, but also within states themselves. And, of course, there usually are exceptions.

For precise sales tax information and application, consult the states' tax codes or your tax professional.

But you can do that later. Today, focus on the love of your life and have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

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