The back-to-school sales tax holiday is even longer this year. Here's what you can save on clothes, school supplies and computers in Florida.
With less than two weeks to go before school starts again for many Florida counties, families are turning their attention to the annual ritual of back-to-school shopping.
But many people are waiting for the annual sales tax holiday before making any purchases.
From 12:01 a.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, shoppers can avoid paying sales tax on computer equipment costing up to $1,000; clothes, shoes and backpacks costing $60 or less; and school supplies costing $15 or less.
Atlantic High School juniors Znya Gibson, Heather Wilson and Vintorya Mills spent Thursday at the Volusia Mall, scouting items they plan to buy this weekend.
It's worth waiting for Gibson and her family, she said: “Every time you’re school shopping, you’re going to spend at least $200 or $300 — hundreds of dollars.”
Here’s everything you need to know about the sales tax holiday and shopping for back-to-school:
What’s covered on the holiday?
The rules of the holiday change every year. This year, clothing items, footwear and certain accessories up to $60 and school supply items up to $15 each are included. Unlike last year, personal computers and certain accessories are covered this year, up to $1,000 each.
Read the full list of sales tax exempt items here.
The discount period will be the 17th back-to-school tax holiday in the state since 1998, and the fifth year in which personal computers and accessories are included.
“It’s something that people can save a lot of money on when you’re talking (about) up to $1,000,” said James Miller, the Florida Retail Federation’s senior director of external affairs. “Our members tell us they (shoppers) take the money that they save and then buy other things with it: chargers, cords, ancillary items that support that technology.”
How much will people really save?
If you’re a shopper buying a $30 pair of jeans this weekend, you’d avoid paying $1.95 in taxes in Volusia County, where the sales tax rate is 6.5%. In Flagler, where the rate is 7%, you’d save $2.10. If you’re buying a $900 computer, you’d save $58.50 in Volusia and $63 in Flagler.
Additionally, some retailers will have sales designed to entice customers out over the weekend, which is destined to be a busy one.
But shopper Lauri Bruining noticed something strange on Thursday.
“The prices are actually higher than they were last week,” she said, explaining that polo shirts that were $10 each last weekend were buy one, get one free this week — at $24.99 a piece.
Families are expected to spend an average of $700 on back-to-school shopping for students in kindergarten through 12th grade and close to $1,000 for college students, according to the retail federation.
Florida economists have projected shoppers during the sales-tax holiday will save $41.7 million — that’s a $31.8 million cut in state revenue and a $9.9 million cut in local government revenue.
Without computer equipment and limited to three days, the holiday in 2018 was projected to save $32.7 million for shoppers.
What do critics say about the holiday?
As excited as retailers are about the holiday, which is longer than usual this year and will give them a chance to be better staffed and stocked for the duration, not everyone is sold on the holiday’s benefits.
The Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a non-profit liberal think tank, calls such holidays an “outdated gimmick.”
Dylan Grundman, a senior policy analyst for the institute, argued in a news release that the brief holiday periods don’t reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income families the rest of the year. He pointed to a lack of personal income taxes in Florida, along with a reliance on sales tax, as resulting in regressive tax systems.
As a consumer, Spruce Creek High senior Hannah Gipson said it may be too much of a hassle anyway.
“I’m not sure it’s worth it,” she said. “I think there are times when it came to like $5 when we were shopping just now, and it’s just too crazy to do all that to save $5.”
But Miller said retailers annually request the holidays be among the retail federation’s top legislative priorities.
“If our members, our retail members around the state didn’t find value in it, they wouldn’t ask us to advocate for it as strongly as we do year in and year out,” Miller said.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.
Florida sales tax holiday
What: No sales tax on clothes up to $60; school supplies up to $15; or computers up to $1,000
When: Friday through Tuesday
Where: Florida (including online retailers)
Read more info here.
This story originally published to news-journalonline.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.