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TALLAHASSEE – Retailers hope outdoor enthusiasts looking to buy canoes, fishing gear or ballgame tickets are aware of the upcoming tax-free shopping period, which lawmakers have dubbed “Freedom Month.”

The tax holiday allows shoppers to avoid paying sales tax on a variety of recreational items and activities in July. It was part of a tax package (HB 7073) that lawmakers passed in March and that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in May.

For example, in July, sales tax is not charged on many boating, fishing and camping items, as well as tickets to live music events, sporting events, fairs, festivals, theater performances and movies. Last year, the state granted the tax exemption for three months, but this year it will be limited to July.

Scott Shalley, president of the Florida Retail Federation, expressed optimism that “this narrower focus” will increase consumer awareness and give retailers a boost this summer. The state is also offering separate tax exemptions this year for back-to-school purchases and hurricane supplies.

“I think the idea of ​​shortening the Freedom Holiday to a month is helpful. I think it definitely makes people more focused on that opportunity,” Shalley said. “It gives our retailers the opportunity to plan their marketing and be more targeted. And that was certainly a benefit of the back-to-school and disaster relief holidays, and I think that’s true for the summer holidays as well.”

The Freedom Holiday is expected to reduce state and local tax revenues by $91.8 million.

When he signed the tax package, DeSantis said the holiday was meant to “get people outside” and “have fun.”

“No tax on recreational items. No tax on things like fishing gear, boating gear, sporting equipment, whatever, tax-free in the month of July,” DeSantis said. “That’s really, really significant.”

However, the Washington, DC-based Tax Foundation said that while sales tax exemptions enjoy broad support, they are “political gimmicks” that distract from “real, lasting tax relief.”

“They neither stimulate economic growth nor significantly increase consumer purchases, but instead delay the timing of purchases,” the Tax Foundation explained. “Some retailers even raise their prices during these holidays, reducing consumer savings.”

In July, people can buy tax-free tickets for events taking place before the end of the year. However, Ticketmaster’s website notes that changes such as upgrades made after July are subject to tax. Ticketmaster also advises people that additional services related to live events, such as parking fees and purchasing memorabilia, may be subject to tax.

Also exempt from the tax exemption are rentals of items such as fishing equipment or kayaks and purchases at places such as amusement parks and airports.

Shalley said he understands the exclusion of rented items because “the holiday is intended to provide relief to Floridians.”

“If you look at certain markets, that (rental items) may be more applicable to visitors,” Shalley said.

The state began observing the Freedom Holiday for a week-long period around Independence Day in 2021. It was repeated in 2022 as a week-long event before being extended to three months last year.

It is one of the largest items in the new tax package, which is expected to result in a revenue loss of $439.6 million in the fiscal year that begins Monday.

At the same time, with the start of the new tax year 2024-2025, two tax exemptions that applied during the current tax year will also be eliminated.

Energy Star appliances such as washing machines costing $1,500 or less, clothes dryers costing $1,500 or less, water heaters costing $1,500 or less, and refrigerators costing $4,500 or less will be taxed again. It also applies to gas stoves and cooktops.

Here is a partial list of what you can buy in July without paying VAT:

  • Tickets for concerts, sporting events, cultural events, theatre performances and films taking place before December 31st.
  • Season tickets for ballet, theater, music events and musical performances.
  • Gym memberships.
  • Bait and fishing accessories that cost $5 or less.
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent that cost $15 or less.
  • Snorkels, goggles and swim masks that cost $25 or less.
  • Camping lanterns, flashlights and tackle boxes that cost $30 or less.
  • Water bottles that cost $30 or less.
  • Floatation devices, inflatable chairs and pool toys that cost $35 or less.
  • Sleeping bags, portable hammocks, camp stoves and folding camp chairs that cost $50 or less.
  • Bicycle helmets that cost $50 or less.
  • Life jackets, coolers, paddles and oars that cost $75 or less.
  • Fishing rods and reels that cost $75 or less.
  • Sunglasses that cost $100 or less.
  • Filters, lighting and covers for residential pools and spas that cost $100 or less.
  • Water skis, wakeboards and kneeboards that cost $150 or less.
  • Chemicals for residential pools and spas that cost $150 or less.
  • Tents that cost $200 or less.
  • Binoculars that cost $200 or less.
  • Gas or charcoal grills that cost $250 or less.
  • Paddleboards and surfboards that cost $300 or less.
  • Canoes and kayaks that cost $500 or less.
  • Bikes that cost $500 or less.

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