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Florida kicks off 2024 with a sales tax holiday

Florida BTS sales tax holilday banner2

It's the last weekend of 2023, and you're busy planning how you will ring in 2024 on Sunday night.

Unless you live in Florida. Oh, Sunshine State residents will party on New Year's Eve, too. But many also are making back-to-school shopping lists.

That's because Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, is the start of yet another Florida sales tax holiday. This two-week event waives the sales tax, both state and local option add-ons, that's usually collected on what state officials have deemed school supplies.

Among the items that will be tax free during the Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 through Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, Back-To-School Sales Tax Holiday are clothes and shoes, lunch boxes and notebooks, and personal computers and certain computer-related accessories.

Tax free guidelines: As with most state tax holidays, which typically occur in the late summer before school years start in the fall, this January back-to-school event in Florida has some parameters.

In addition to determining which items qualify, shoppers need to pay attention to prices more than they usually do.

So today's Saturday Shout Outs go to the Florida Department of Revenue's special sales tax holiday handouts.

First, there's the frequently asked questions document. It discusses such issues as —

  • The definition of a learning aid. Some of us might call some of these things games (I'm looking at you jigsaw puzzles), but then learning can (and should) be fun.
  • The computer accessories that qualify as tax-free. Note that video game consoles, digital media receivers, or devices that are not primarily designed to process data will still be taxed.
  • And how the holiday tax exemption applies to layaway purchases.

As you've probably guessed by now, especially when it comes to the computers, a lot of non-parents, or folks whose kiddos long ago graduated, will be buying electronics during the first two weeks of 2024.

They also will be buying clothes, since there's no tax holiday requirement that the apparel be for youngsters. The tax holiday law, as note in the FAQ, simply says tax-free clothing is "any article of wearing apparel intended to be worn on or about the human body."

The second Saturday Shout Out document, the Florida Revenue Department's sales tax holiday TIP, or Tax Information Publication, has specifics on and examples of the tax-free items.

Read the TIP. As I've note in my many previous sales tax holiday posts, states can get picky when it comes to what does and does not qualify for a special short-term tax exemption.

Price tags limit tax savings: And both documents note the aforementioned dollar limits on the tax-free items. They are —

  • $30 or less for acceptable learning aids;
  • $50 or less for certain school supplies;
  • $100 or less for each piece of clothing, footwear, and certain accessories; and
  • $1,500 or less for personal computers, laptops, monitors, and certain computer-related accessories.

Consumer savings, bad tax policy: My complicity in publicizing this event notwithstanding, I must also point out that while tax holidays, regardless of when they are held, are popular with consumers, they are bad tax policy.

They surrender a chunk of state and local revenue that must be recovered from some other source. Or some government services must be reduced or eliminated.

Such choices aren't necessarily bad, but they should be made more deliberatively and thoroughly, not just to curry to shoppers, also known as voters.

As I and others in the tax community have noted repeatedly, legislators should consider the full effects of tax changes before implementing them. Moves such as tax holidays simply to woo voters for obviously political reasons tend to create long-term policy problems.

Finally, sales tax holidays aren't the economic boon some argue. The events force businesses to restructure their operations for a short period, which can be costly, both in time and dollar accounting.

Plus, they don't really boost retailers' sales. Shoppers simply shift their buying to the tax-free period.

But since shoppers/voters like the events, sales tax holidays aren't going away. And in some places, such as Florida where there's been a slew of new sales holidays (and permanent tax breaks) over the past couple of years, they are expanding.

And you can't blame folks for taking advantage of the opportunity to save even just a few bucks.

So to Sunshine State residents, Happy Tax-Free Shopping New Year!

At least the event runs for two weeks, so you don't have to rush to your local shopping center or mall with a hangover on Jan. 1 to get your tax deals.

You also might find these items of interest:

 

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