Sales tax-free weekend coming up — see which items are included, exempt

Florida’s popular back-to-school sales-tax holiday kicks off Friday, and unlike last year, computers will be eligible for the tax break.

The tax-free shopping period starts at one minute after midnight on Friday and runs through Sunday. During the three-day weekend, shoppers won’t be charged the state’s 6 percent sales tax or Palm Beach County’s 1 percent sales surtax on certain school-related and other specified items.

Personal computers are back on the list of items eligible for the tax break.

Most of the items on classroom supply lists — school uniform items, pencils, markers, crayons, paper and backpacks — will also be tax-free during the three-day weekend. The tax break includes clothing, footwear and certain accessories selling for $60 or less; and certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item.

MORE: Back-to-school shopping: Retailers already stocking shelves with school-related items

The state added computers to the holiday’s tax-free list in 2013, but they were removed last year.

This year, the tax break is limited to computers and certain computer-related accessories that sell for $750 or less. The computers must be purchased for noncommercial home or personal use to qualify for tax holiday.

The Florida Retail Federation and its members urged lawmakers during this year’s legislative session to put computers back on the list of eligible items. Tax breaks on computers can be a “big game changer” for both retailers and shoppers, because they not only result in savings for consumers they also help boost store sales, said James Miller, the federation’s spokesman.

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During this year’s sales tax holiday, shoppers who purchase a $750 computer in Palm Beach County would save $52.50. That’s money customers can use to purchase other items, including computer accessories or other back-to-school items, Miller said.

“Technology is becoming more and more prominent in every grade level,” Miller said. “Being able to sell those items to students and increase sales during the time-period where they wouldn’t have to pay sales tax is significant.”

Palm Beach County students return to school Aug. 14

But the tax holiday also applies to a number of items for adults and employees, including purses, employee uniforms, suits, ties and safety shoes. Diapers, diaper bags and baby clothes are also tax-free during the holiday.

The holiday is expected to save Florida shoppers an estimated $33.4 million this year.

Back-to-school is the retail industry’s second biggest shopping season of the year, falling behind Black Friday and the holiday shopping rush.

Back to school spending is expected to reach $83.6 billion this year, up 10 percent from $75.8 billion in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy,” the federation’s President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement released by the trade group. “With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year. As students head back to the classroom, retailers are prepared to meet their needs whether it’s for pencils and paper, shirts and pants or laptops and tablets.”

Families with children in elementary, middle and high school plan to spend an average $687.72, for a total of $29.5 billion, up 8 percent from $27.3 billion in 2016, according to a federation survey released this month.

Parents are expected to spend an average of $238.89 on clothing, $204.33 on electronics, $130.38 on shoes and $114.12 on school supplies, the survey found.

College students and their families plan to spend an average of $969.88, up 9 percent from last year, the federation said.

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