The Florida Senate’s fiscal year 2021 tax package is still evolving but one thing is certain: its preliminary proposals will feature far longer sales-tax holidays than the House is tentatively offering.
The Senate's Finance and Tax Committee has approved three measures proposing a 10-day, back-to-school sales-tax holiday, an 18-day disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday and a 0.02 percent trim in the state’s communications service tax (CST) on cellphones and cable TV while reducing and standardizing local CSTs.
The House's Ways & Means Committee has adopted a “conceptual” $100.3 million tax-relief package that proposes three-day back-to-school and seven-day hurricane preparedness sales-tax holidays and a 0.5 percent slash in the state’s CST.
A side-by-side comparison of the chambers’ proposals is difficult at this stage of the session because the House’s proposed tax plan is bundled into one package, but tax measures are moving through the Senate as individual bills.
• Back-to-school sales-tax holiday: Senate Bill 542, crafted by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, would exempt from state sales taxes items that cost $60 or less, such as clothing, footwear, backpacks and school supplies, from July 31 to Aug. 9. It also exempts the first $1,000 of the sales price of personal computers and related accessories purchased for noncommercial home or personal use.
The House package offers the same sales-tax holiday on the same items, but scales back this year’s five day back-to-school tax holiday to three days, Aug. 7-9.
The Senate plan would produce $65.1 million in savings for shoppers. The House proposal is projected to save shoppers $41.8 million.
• Hurricane preparation sales-tax holiday: SB 524, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, calls for an 18-day disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday from May 29 to June 15 for items in the state’s Division of Emergency Management’s disaster supply kit, including battery operated radios, flashlights, batteries, first-aid kits, tarpaulins, coolers and generators.
The House’s proposal retains a seven-day disaster-prep tax holiday, May 29-June 4.
The Senate plan would save residents an estimated $26.8 million, and the House’s proposal would amount to a $5.6 million tax reduction.
• Communications service tax (CST): SB 1174, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, would reduce the CST by 0.02 percent, from 4.92 percent to 4.9 percent.
Florida CSTs, among the nation’s highest, are imposed on sales of communication services, including wireline and mobile telecommunications service, cable and video service and direct-to-home satellite service.
The state’s CST generates about $700 million a year, according to the state’s Department of Revenue. Local CSTs of up to 5.1 percent levied by cities and counties generate about $400 million annually, according to the Florida Association of Counties (FAC).
SB 1174 would establish uniform rates across Florida’s 482 municipalities, fixing it at 4 percent for charter counties and cities and at 2 percent for noncharter counties.
The House plan reduces the state’s CST from 4.92 percent to 4.42 percent and CST on direct-to-home satellite services from 9.07 percent to 8.57 percent, saving taxpayers $24.9 million.