Hurricanes have been a fact of life in Florida since the Spanish established St. Augustine in 1565. After being hammered by eight major storms between 2004 and 2005, the state experienced a relative calm and wasn’t directly hit by a hurricane in over a decade. During this time, state officials continued to encourage Floridians to be prepared for the inevitable day when another hurricane would make landfall.
To assist residents in hurricane preparation, the Florida Legislature had enacted a hurricane sales tax holiday from 2005-2007, and again in 2014. The holiday allowed Floridians to purchase hurricane preparedness items like flashlights, batteries, coolers, weather radios, and portable generators tax free. Unfortunately, due to other tax priorities, the holiday was put on the back-burner the last two years and Florida was hit by two hurricanes, Hermine and Matthew, this previous season.
Studies have shown that other sales tax holidays have boosted consumerism among shoppers, bringing them out to buy items tax-free. It is safe to reason that a hurricane sales tax holiday could have some of the same effect. But more importantly, a holiday makes it more likely that Floridians will prepare for a hurricane, especially after this hurricane season being fresh in their minds.
Giving Floridians tax relief on hurricane items for the 2017 hurricane season will allow them to keep money in their pockets for emergencies while having the supplies needed to be ready. The previous sales tax holiday in 2014 was predicted to save Florida families more than $4.2 million. Businesses, like Home Depot and Ace Hardware, also stand to benefit as more shoppers go to their stores to purchase supplies.
With the hurricane season starting right after the conclusion of the 2017 Legislative Session, lawmakers could consider a hurricane sales tax holiday as part of the broader tax package. Last session saw lawmakers mull over a 15-day holiday but ultimately it did not end up in the final tax package. This year, lawmakers should consider the impact of the 2016 hurricane season on Florida and the safety of its citizens when debating whether to enact a hurricane sales tax holiday.