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'Freedom Week' to offer sales tax breaks

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DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 14: The American Flag is flown at half staff during the NASCAR Cup Series 63rd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2021 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Florida is about to find out how much a week of sales-tax “freedom” translates into capitalism.

Starting Thursday, in what lawmakers dubbed “Freedom Week,” people will receive sales-tax breaks when they make a wide range of purchases that could help spur them to be more active after being limited by the coronavirus pandemic.

Shoppers from Thursday through July 7 will be able to avoid paying all or part of sales taxes on purchases such as grills; bicycles; fishing and camping gear; kayaks and canoes; tickets for concerts, movies and ball games; gym memberships; boxes of softballs and sleeves of tennis balls; and even sunscreen.

“What better way to celebrate than to offer a sales-tax holiday that will encourage people to explore our greatest asset --- Florida’s outdoors,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls said in a statement last month when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a tax package (HB 7061) that includes the first-of-its-kind Freedom Week.

ALSO READ: Fourth of July travelers face highest gas prices in 7 years as fuel demand spikes

Economists have estimated that the tax breaks will cut state revenue by $42 million and local revenue by $12.7 million. But they, along with retailers, acknowledge that the numbers are a bit of a guess as questions remain over how much shoppers and businesses will participate.

“It’s a little bit of an experiment, right? So, we hope it goes well,” said Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “I know a number of our retailers are also adding their own incentives to get people out and about and to provide some clarity as to where the sales-tax breaks exist.”

The tax package also includes a more-traditional tax “holiday” for back-to-school shoppers that will start in late July and last 10 days. The holiday, which will provide tax breaks on purchases of clothing, school supplies and personal computers. is expected to provide an estimated $69.4 million in tax savings.

Shalley said he hopes “Freedom Week” can be bigger than projected.

“We don’t have a feeling, because it is the first time,” Shalley said. “But there are some big ticket items on there, ($200) and ($300) types of items that have a sales-tax exemption on them. So there is definitely an opportunity to save.”

Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of the Tallahassee-based group Florida TaxWatch, said people need to “re-establish a sense of normalcy that they lost to the pandemic.”

“After a year of stress and uncertainty, much of which was spent cooped up indoors, the good people of Florida need to get outside and experience all of the beautiful beaches and parks that the state has to offer,” Calabro said.

Sales taxes will be lifted during Freedom Week on the following:

TICKETS

--- Tickets purchased for live music events, sporting events, fairs, festivals, cultural events and movies shown in theaters. The tickets can be good for events scheduled through Dec. 31.

--- Entry and annual passes to museums, ballets, plays and musical theater performances.

--- Dues and fees for gyms and physical-fitness facilities.

WATER GEAR

--- The first $25 of the price of snorkels, goggles and swimming masks.

--- The first $50 of the price of safety flares.

--- The first $75 of the price of life jackets, coolers, paddles and oars.

--- The first $150 of the price of water skis, wakeboards, kneeboards, inflatable water tubes and floats capable of being towed.

--- The first $300 of the price of paddleboards and surfboards.

--- The first $500 of the price of canoes and kayaks.

CAMPING GEAR

--- The first $30 of the price of camping lanterns and flashlights.

--- The first $50 of the price of sleeping bags, portable hammocks, camping stoves and collapsible camping chairs.

--- The first $200 of the price of tents.

FISHING GEAR AND SUPPLIES

--- The first $5 of the price of bait or fishing tackle sold individually.

--- The first $30 of the price of tackle boxes or bags.

--- The first $75 of the price of single fishing rods or $150 when sold as a set.

OTHER ITEMS

--- Items for individual or team sports --- other than footwear and uniforms --- with prices of $40 or less.

--- The first $15 of the price of sunscreen or insect repellant.

--- The first $30 of the price of water bottles.

--- The first $100 of the price of sunglasses.

--- The first $200 of the price of hydration packs and binoculars.

--- The first $250 of the price of outdoor gas or charcoal grills and bicycles.

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