GET YOUR TAX-FREE TARP: Florida shoppers, rejoice. You can buy your hurricane supplies sales-tax free for 12 days. Get those tarps ready. Hurricane season begins June 1.
By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Hurricane season starts in less than a month, and Florida really wants the Sunshine State ready.
So let’s celebrate with a Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday.
Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law Monday capping off a $500 million election year “It’s Your Money” tax agenda. The hurricane holiday is one of three sales-tax holidays for state consumers. Back-to-school and energy-efficient appliances get their due later in the year.
Despite skepticism from organizations like the Tax Foundation, which consider sales tax holidays “gimmicks” in place of tax reform, Floridians will have just nine days — May 31 to June 8 — to purchase hurricane safety items ahead of the six-month long storm season.
Hurricanes themselves are serious business, but policymakers are assuming residents are geared up and ready to take advantage of the 6-percent sales tax exemption rather than purchase items before an actual hurricane hits.
Taking that tax holiday and its list of 10 exempted items will mean the Florida Department of Revenue will miss out on nearly $281,000 of taxpayer money, according to a state analysis of the bill.
Supplies include flashlights costing less than $20, batteries (not including car and boat batteries) up to a $30, and tarps or other flexible waterproof sheeting selling for $50 or less — a maximum savings of $3. Other exemptions apply to portable generators topping out at $750 and moderately priced radios, first aid kits and food coolers.
Absent from the list, however, are certain items recommended by National Weather Service and a few others that some Floridians would probably really, really want if they were stuck in a Category 4 storm.
1. Safe those important family documents.
Call it a financial first aid kit. Important family documents such as insurance policies, identification, and bank account records should all be kept in a portable waterproof container, according to the National Hurricane Center. They probably didn’t mean an Igloo cooler. But those waterproof safes aren’t on the list
2. Adult beverages.
Let’s get real for a second. A little nip here and there might help take the edge off experiencing the business end of a natural disaster. But exempting booze for 12-days in Florida? That’s a tax revenue no-go.
3. Storm clothing and blankets.
Sleeping bags, blankets, additional bedding and an array of clothing such as rain coats, shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants are all recommended as basic disaster supplies. None of them however are tax exempt. You can risk it and wait until August when the state celebrates its three-day back-to-school sales-tax holiday.
Gasoline is an extremely valuable resource when basic power and electricity services are interrupted. While portable generators and fuel tanks costing $25 or less are exempted during the June holiday, actual fuel is not. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which rocked the Northeast in 2012, gas was being sold in some place for about $5 per gallon.
5. Pet food
While unprepared food is tax exempt in Florida year-round, pet food is not whether in sunny skies or gale-force winds. If the Legislature is going to exempt cheap flashlights for 12-days, why not dog food? The National Weather Service says it a good idea.
6. Hygiene products.
Brace yourselves, but toilet paper is not exempt from state sales taxes even in the event of a hurricane. One wonders if the TP-tax would top a list of grievances if the Framers were alive today.
Neither “toilet articles” nor cosmetic supplies are exempt from sales tax unless they are prescribed by a physician. That includes soap, toothpaste and deodorant.
7. Hurricane parties.
While hurricanes are no laughing matter, they also don’t seem to stop some people from having a little fun. Why not give party-goers a targeted tax-break?
Hurricane parties are an odd ritual that the Urban Dictionary defines as, “A tradition of the South to hold a get together before or during a hurricane in which large quantities of alcohol are consumed. This is because there will most likely be nothing else to do during a hurricane due to the lack of electricity.”
Contact William Patrick at email@example.com