Businesses, consumers could see tax breaks
By Jim Turner
News Service of Florida
April 12, 2023
TALLAHASSEE --- The Florida House rolled out a wide-ranging $1.38 billion package of tax breaks for businesses and shoppers, while the Senate continues to work out details of an “aggressive” tax plan.
The House Ways & Means Committee late Wednesday unanimously approved its package (PCB WMC 23-02), which includes such things as sales-tax “holidays” and cutting a commercial-lease tax that businesses have long criticized.
Some parts of the House package mirror requests by Gov. Ron DeSantis, such as holding a series of tax holidays and providing sales-tax exemptions on products for babies and toddlers.
House Ways & Means Chairman Stan McClain, R-Ocala, described the package as a “good mix of consumer relief and also corporate relief.”
Meanwhile Wednesday, Senate Finance and Tax Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, gave an initial overview of a Senate plan he said will be released next week. The Senate plan is expected to overlap parts of the House proposal on issues such as tax holidays, the baby and toddler discounts and speeding up a reduction in the commercial-lease tax.
As he vowed to be “as aggressive as possible,” Ingoglia said a final package negotiated by the Senate and House in the coming weeks “will be the largest tax cut in the history of Florida for one year.”
“There’s a long litany of proposals that have been brought (by) business groups, advocate groups, members of the Legislature. All of them are under consideration,” Ingoglia said.
“We understand that the House has already rolled out their tax package,” Ingoglia added. “Obviously, we may take up some or most of theirs. The Senate position may not exactly be the same as the House’s position, but that is what conference (negotiations) is for.”
Ingoglia suggested the Senate plan could include several measures not found in the House package, such as reimbursing local governments that saw property-tax revenues reduced by Hurricane Ian. Also, the Senate could propose funding for cleaning up Brownfield sites and tax breaks on aviation fuel, broadband equipment and firearms-safety boxes.
The House package also includes such things as permanently lifting taxes on adult incontinence products, oral hygiene products, equipment to produce renewable natural gas and certain agricultural fencing.
“There are other things we are still considering as it relates to the tax package. Some of it’s policy, not necessarily any more dollars,” McClain said after his committee meeting.
The House package includes DeSantis’ call for two 14-day back-to-school tax “holidays” that would be held before the fall and spring terms. Shoppers would be able to avoid paying sales taxes on clothes, school supplies, learning aids and personal computers under $1,500.
The package also includes a 14-day tax holiday on disaster-preparedness supplies around the start of hurricane season. The period also would allow shoppers to avoid paying sales taxes on household goods, such as laundry detergent, fabric softener, toilet paper, soap, cleaning supplies and trash bags and a variety of pet supplies.
During the past two years, the state has held a “Freedom Week” tax holiday around the July 4 holiday that has included sales-tax exemptions related to recreation, entertainment and outdoor activities. But the House is proposing a “Freedom Summer” holiday from Memorial Day through Labor Day that would provide exemptions on a range of gear for outdoor activities and events.
The House proposal also would maintain a “Tool Time” holiday in September to provide a tax exemption on certain tools and equipment.
The House plan also would offer a one-year tax exemption on certain Energy Star appliances and gas ranges and cooktops.
Lifting taxes on gas ranges and stoves would be projected to save shoppers $6.8 million next fiscal year.
DeSantis asked for a permanent sales-tax exemption on gas stoves after a member of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission in January said a ban on gas stoves could be considered to address emissions that may increase health risks. Conservatives blasted the idea, and commission Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric later released a statement that said the panel wasn’t seeking to ban gas appliances.
Among the most-expensive proposals in the House package is a reduction in the commercial-lease tax from 5.5 percent to 4.5 percent. That change would cut state revenue by an estimated $311.5 million and local government revenue by $82.9 million.
Two years ago, the Legislature directed the commercial-lease tax to be cut to 2 percent when revenue from sales-tax collections on out-of-state retailers replenishes the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, which became depleted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A staff analysis of the House bill projected the trust fund would be made full in May 2024. That would lead to the commercial-lease tax reduction to 2 percent starting Aug. 1, 2024. The House package would reduce the rate from 5.5 percent to 4.5 percent this year, before it would go to 2 percent in 2024.