FILE - back to school shopping

The Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee Tuesday unanimously approved two bills seeking to more than double the state’s “tax holidays” for hurricane preparation and school supplies in 2020.

The five-member panel with little comment endorsed both Senate Bill 524, which seeks to create an 18-day emergency supply tax holiday, and SB 542, which proposes a 10-day sales tax holiday for school supplies.

SB 524, sponsored by state GOP Chair Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, appropriates $70,072 to administer the hurricane supply tax holiday program while SB 542, sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, includes a $237,000 budget request to orchestrate the school supply tax-free program.

Both bills must also be approved by the Senate’s Finance & Tax and Appropriations committees before they can advance once the 2020 legislative session begins on Jan. 14.

The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference has not yet evaluated either bill to provide estimates of how much in “returned tax money” state residents will likely accrue during the proposed tax holidays.

Florida levies a 6 percent sales and use tax. Sales tax receipts accounted for about 77 percent of the state’s general revenue in fiscal 2019, according to the state’s Department of Revenue (DOR).

Florida has enacted a “disaster preparedness” sales tax holiday six times since 2006, exempting specified items in preparation for the hurricane season that begins annually June 1.

The types and values of exempted items – emergency supplies such as batteries costing $30 or less, tarps costing $50 or less, self-powered radios costing $50 or less and generators costing $750 or less – have varied, and length of the exemption periods has ranged from three to 12 days in order to give state residents the opportunity to build a seven-day disaster supply kit recommended by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Gruters’ SB 524 would extend the state’s seven-day sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies to 18 days, from May 29 through June 15.

Among new wrinkles is a provision extending the sales tax break to impact-resistant windows bought in less than 20-unit bundles and on impact-resistant doors sold fewer than 10 at a time.

Gruters’ legislation, unlike this year’s House Bill 7123, is not attached to the school supplies tax holiday.

HB 7123, authorized this year’s seven-day tax holiday – May 31 through June 6 – as well as the Aug. 2-6 back-to-school lifting of sales taxes on clothes costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less and personal computers costing $1,000 or less.

Perry’s SB 542 would double the five-day sales tax holiday to 10 days of no sales tax for clothes worth $60 or less and school supplies, from July 31 to Aug. 9.

Florida has enacted a “back-to-school” sales tax holiday 18 times since the Florida Residents’ Tax Relief Act of 1998 established the first tax holiday for clothing purchases of $50 or less.

Backpacks were added to the tax holiday in 1999 and school supplies in 2001. In 2013, the Legislature expanded the exemption to include personal computers and related accessories selling for $750 or less, purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.

The expanded dates also line up better with the school year. According to the bill, 67 of the state’s 73 school districts began the 2019-20 school year on Aug. 12, and the remaining school districts began by Aug. 19.