Tax-free back-to-school shopping begins today

St Augustine and St Johns County parents will be taking advantage of this weekend’s sales tax holiday as they purchase items such as clothing, accessories and school gear; beginning today and continuing through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

For clothing and accessories such as backpacks, handbags and wallets, no sales tax will be added to items that are $75 or less. For school items such as pens, pencils and notebooks, there will be no sales tax on items that are $15 or less.

Lawmakers implemented the first sales tax holiday in 1998, and expanded it to nine days the following year to encompass two weekends, ensuring workers with bi-weekly paychecks could benefit. The holiday was suspended altogether in 2008 and 2009 in response to the deep recession, but was brought back as a three-day break in 2010.

This year’s sales tax holiday is part of HB 7087; an omnibus tax cut package passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Scott.

The sales tax holiday portion of the tax cut package will save shoppers and parents buying back-to-school items, but cost the state $25.9 million in revenue.

Local governments will see a $5.9 million impact.

Retailers are hoping the holiday will boost their bottom lines.

“We expect retailers see an average increase of about 37 percent in store traffic this weekend because of the sales tax holiday,” said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “Retail is Florida’s second largest industry, so that’s good for our economy as a whole — it means more work hours and higher payrolls.”

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