‘Freedom Month’ tax breaks to start

by | Jun 25, 2024



Florida’s upcoming “Freedom Month” in July will exempt a wide range of recreational items and activities from sales tax as part of a legislative effort to encourage outdoor activities and boost consumer spending.


Retailers hope outdoor enthusiasts planning to buy canoes, fishing gear or tickets to ball games have become more aware of an upcoming tax-free shopping period that lawmakers have dubbed “Freedom Month.”

The tax “holiday” will allow shoppers to avoid paying sales taxes on a wide range of recreational items and activities throughout July. It was part of a tax package (HB 7073) that the Legislature passed in March and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in May.

As examples, sales taxes won’t be collected in July on many supplies for boating, fishing and camping and tickets purchased for live music events, sporting events, fairs, festivals, theater performances and movies. Last year, the state offered the tax holiday for three months, but it will be limited to July this year.

Florida Retail Federation President Scott Shalley expressed optimism that “this more narrowed focus” will increase consumer awareness and provide a summer boost to retailers. The state this year also is offering separate tax holidays linked to back-to-school purchases and hurricane-preparedness supplies.

“I think the idea of paring it (the Freedom Holiday) down to a month is helpful. I think it definitely makes people focus more on that opportunity,” Shalley said. “It gives our retailers an opportunity to plan their marketing and put things in place that are more focused. And that has certainly been a benefit of the back-to-school, the disaster-preparedness (holidays), and I think that follows suit here with the summer (holiday).”

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 is intended to “get people outdoors” and “have fun.”

“No tax on recreational items. No tax on things, fishing supplies, boating supplies, athletic equipment, you name it, tax free for the month of July,” DeSantis said. “That is really, really significant.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, however, said that while sales-tax holidays have broad support, they are “political gimmicks” that distract from “genuine, permanent tax relief.”

“They do not promote economic growth or significantly increase consumer purchases, but instead shift the timing of purchases,” the Tax Foundation said. “Some retailers even raise prices during these holidays, reducing consumer savings.”

People can buy tax-free tickets in July for events that will occur before the end of the year. But Ticketmaster’s website noted that changes such as upgrades made after July will be subject to taxes. Ticketmaster also advised people that additional services tied to live events, such as parking and memorabilia purchases, might be taxed.

The tax holiday also doesn’t cover rentals of such things as fishing gear and kayaks and doesn’t include purchases at places such as theme parks and airports.

Shalley said he understands the exclusion of rental items, as “the holiday is designed to provide relief for Floridians.”

“If you’re looking at certain markets, that (rental items) may apply more to visitors,” Shalley said.

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

It is among the largest portions of the new tax package, which is projected to reduce revenue by $439.6 million during the fiscal year that will begin Monday.

Meanwhile, the start of the new 2024-2025 fiscal year means two tax holidays that were in effect throughout the current fiscal year will go away.

Taxes will return to Energy Star appliances such as washing machines that cost $1,500 or less, clothes dryers that cost $1,500 or less, water heaters that cost $1,500 or less and refrigerators that cost $4,500 or less. They also will apply to gas ranges and cooktops.

Here is a partial list of what people can buy in July without paying sales taxes:

— Tickets to concerts, sporting events, cultural events, theater performances and movies scheduled before Dec. 31.

— Season tickets to ballets, plays, music events and musical theater performances.

— Gym memberships.

— Bait and fishing tackle that costs $5 or less.

— Sunscreen and insect repellant that costs $15 or less.

— Snorkels, goggles and swimming masks that cost $25 or less.

— Camping lanterns, flashlights and tackle boxes that cost $30 or less.

— Water bottles that cost $30 or less.

— Pool floats, inflatable chairs, and pool toys that cost $35 or less.

— Sleeping bags, portable hammocks, camping stoves and collapsible camping 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.

— Residential pool and spa filters, lights and covers that cost $100 or less.

— Water skis, wakeboards and kneeboards that cost $150 or less.

— Residential pool and spa chemicals 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.

— Bicycles that cost $500 or less.

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