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Sales Tax Holiday Underway In Florida

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Parents have until next weekend to save money on back-to-school shopping thanks to Florida's sales tax holiday, which kicked off Friday.

During the holiday, which ends at 11:59 p.m. next Sunday night, state and local taxes are waived on $100 or less in clothing and footwear, and up to $15 worth of school and office supplies. The exemption also covers the first $750 of any computer purchase, including accessories.

“This ten-day holiday is fantastic. It ties a record here in Florida going back to 2007 when it was also ten days,” said James Miller of the Florida Retail Federation.

The 10-day period, the longest state holiday so far, spans two weekends, which Miller calls an added benefit for busy shoppers. Along with consumers looking for bargains, the extended period also benefits the businesses in a number of ways, such as spreading out the store traffic.

“People have obviously more days to shop, and retailers can better gear up in terms of staff,” Miller said. “If you get paid the 1st or 15th of the month – or both – you have two weekends under which to shop.”

“Clearly, the extra days give shoppers more time to evaluate the ‘value proposition,’ as we would say in business school,” said UWF economist Richard Hawkins. “And whether that outfit or that particular item is desirable or not.”

Hawkins says just because there’s a tax break and some savings, buyers still need to be aware – He cited a study from about ten years ago.

“We found that mark-downs by retailers were a little less generous during sales tax holidays,” Hawkins said. “Maybe that will change with a longer holiday. But I’ve always joked that the careful shopper needs to purchase during the holiday and put the item and receipt in their trunk, and check the price after the holiday.”

While shoppers are keeping their estimated $70 million in their pockets during the holiday, what about the state’s coffers?

“That’s an important but unanswered question,” said Hawkins. It’s not clear how they’re going to make up for that in the overall budget.”

“When you consider how large the state’s budget is [$77 billion], $60 million or $70 million is a drop in the bucket, when you consider the impact it has for Florida families,” Miller said.

This year’s tax holiday is part of Gov. Rick Scott’s $400 million in tax cuts passed by the Legislature this year. But a repeat in 2016, says UWF’s Richard Hawkins, will depend on the health of Florida’s economy at that time.

The Florida Retail Federation has a detailed list of what’s covered and what’s not at www.frf.com.