110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Hatfield
posted Jul 8, 2008 - 4:43:43pm
First, there was one. Then, there wasn't to be one. Then, maybe there would be a shortened one. Then, there was confusion.
Spokeswoman Renee Watters at the Florida Department of Revenue in Tallahassee put the matter of the back-to-school sales-tax holiday to rest: There won't be one this August.
"The Legislature never authorized it," she said.
Click here to comment on this story, and learn how Beacon reporter Jen Horton and her children coped with the loss of the sales-tax holiday.
Legislators, specifically state senators, were worried about tight budgets, and didn't want to lose any revenue.
As Watters pointed out, there's no chance of legislators approving the tax holiday now. The Legislature is not even in session.
Both families and retailers found the decade-long run of the tax-free back-to-school shopping days at the beginning of August a boon. Last year, savings amounted to more than $46 million.
Even the skeptical watchdog organization Florida TaxWatch became enthusiastic about it, after observing the sales-tax holiday for a few years.
"When the first sales tax holiday was created, many people, including Florida TaxWatch, believed that it would be more of a symbolic gesture than a real economic stimulus. That first sales tax holiday proved to be very popular with both taxpayers and retailers. Over the next three years, the Legislature enacted three more holidays, and its has become even more popular and some very real benefits have become apparent," TaxWatch senior research analyst Kurt Wenner wrote.
President Rick McAllister of the Florida Retail Federation in Tallahassee said in a phone interview with The Beacon, "We were very disappointed when it did not pass in the Senate. It passed in the House, and the governor said he would sign it."
Talk in the Senate went to the last day of the session, he said.
McAllister called the back-to-school tax holiday "a real economic stimulus, and helpful to families trying to buy back-to-school items. We'll have to convince the Senate it won't cost as much as it will generate."
He explained the tax holiday stimulates sales of items that are taxable. When families go shopping for tax-free items, they buy other things, as well, generating tax revenues for the state.
Plus, people just like tax-free shopping. There's a psychological component, McAllister said.
Now, the Alabama Retail Association informed McAllister it will advertise in Florida, to woo shoppers across the state line for Alabama's back-to-school tax holiday. Georgia has done that in the past, he said.
McAllister hopes the Florida sales-tax holiday will return next year. "It's a win-win situation."
Meanwhile, the hurricane-season sales-tax holiday, authorized after the devastating 2004 hurricane season, lived only a few short years. The Legislature nixed its return for the beginning of the 2008 storm season in June.
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