Florida retailers look for boost during back-to-school sales tax ‘holiday’

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Credit: CBS

Florida retailers hope for a boost to summer sales with the start Monday of a back-to-school sales tax “holiday.”

The tax holiday, which will last through Aug. 6, will allow shoppers to avoid paying sales taxes on clothes, shoes, school supplies, and personal computers. Lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis also approved a second similar holiday that will be held during the first two weeks of January, providing a chance to replenish supplies at the start of the spring semester.

Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley expressed cautious optimism for the upcoming discount period, as “some of our stores have been down a little bit.”

“Hopefully, the back-to-school sales tax holiday will incentivize folks to get out and about and patronize a local retailer,” Shalley said.

National chains such as Office Depot, Best Buy, Kohl’s, and Target have already announced back-to-school sales, with some including discount programs for students and teachers.

Deloitte Consulting has warned that strained household budgets and continued high prices after two years of inflation could dampen the back-to-school season.

“Parents are likely to be strategic about their spending to help ensure children are set up for success at the start of the school year by renewing school supplies but perhaps holding off on new clothing until needed,” Nick Handrinos, Deloitte vice chairman and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution and consumer products leader, said in a prepared statement.

Deloitte Consulting projects consumers will spend an average of $597 a student in grades kindergarten through 12th grade as they prepare for school.

The projected average is down 10 percent from 2022 but is a 12.2 percent increase from 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic. Spending on apparel is expected to be down 14 percent from last year, with spending on technology down 13 percent.

The projected drop in technology spending is, in part, related to many parents making purchases during the pandemic because of remote learning, according to Deloitte.

Shalley said electronics will still be a driver of sales efforts during the upcoming tax holiday.

“Everything we’ve seen shows projections up mostly on the back of electronics,” Shalley said. “So, whether that’s laptops or pads or calculators, we’re still seeing an increase in that area.”

The two back-to-school holidays were included in a broad tax package (HB 7063) approved in May. They are expected to make up $160.6 million of the $965.6 million in tax savings in the package.

Bill Herrle, state executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Florida, said the upcoming holiday is a chance to help local businesses in “difficult economic times.”

Back-to-school tax holidays have been held almost every year since 1998 and have typically lasted three to nine days. The holiday was expanded to 10 days in 2021 and 14 days last year, as the state saw its coffers bulked up with federal COVID-19 stimulus money and higher-than-expected tax revenues.

Here is a look at what lawmakers included in the back-to-school holiday:

— Shoppers won’t have to pay sales taxes on clothes, wallets, bags, backpacks, fanny packs, footwear, and diaper bags that cost $100 or less. Not included are briefcases, suitcases, garment bags, skis, swim fins, roller blades, and skates.

— Shoppers won’t have to pay sales taxes on pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, notebooks, notebook filler paper, legal pads, binders, lunch boxes, construction paper, markers, folders, poster board, composition books, poster paper, scissors, cellophane tape, glue, paste, rulers, computer disks, staplers, staples, protractors, compasses and calculators that cost $50 or less.

— Shoppers won’t have to pay sales taxes on learning aids and puzzles, ranging from flashcards and memory games to puzzle books and toys intended to teach reading or math skills, that cost $30 or less.

— Shoppers won’t have to pay sales taxes on personal computers and related accessories – such as keyboards and monitors – that cost $1,500 or less. Not included are cell phones, video game consoles and digital media receivers.

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