In final hours, lawmakers pass sales tax holiday

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The back-to-school sales tax holiday will likely be back this summer and will include personal computers.

The Legislature passed on Friday - the last day of the legislative session - a wide-ranging economic development bill (SB 406) that includes a three day period, Aug. 2 through Aug. 4, during which a number of items won't be subject to the 6 percent sales tax.

The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott.

Clothes, shoes, wallets, bags, and backpacks costing $75 or less and school supplies costing $15 or less would be covered by the tax holiday.

Personal computers and related accessories costing $750 or less, as long as they're not used for commercial purposes, are also covered, as are digital readers, tablets, and items like keyboards or monitors - as long as they don't include a TV tuner.

The tax break, as has been in the case in previous years, wouldn't apply in theme parks or at airports or hotel gift shops.

State economists have estimated the impact of the proposed three-day holiday at $28.3 million to the state and $6.4 million to local governments - though some economic studies have shown that people are induced to buy more uncovered items during the sales tax holiday, meaning tax collections could increase.

The sales tax holiday was put into another broader economic development bill which was worked out in a conference committee of the two chambers and given final approval by both on Friday.

In addition to the tax holiday, the bill creates a schedule for reviewing state incentives and economic development programs in an effort to prevent spending on programs that don't deliver promised jobs, a major focus of lawmakers this session.

The bill directs that all applicants for an incentive be evaluated for "economic benefits" in a uniform fashion and requires the state Department of Economic Opportunity to publish information about economic development incentives provided to businesses.

The bill also extends by 12 years a state distribution of a 1 percent cigarette tax addition from a few years ago under which the money goes to the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.

The bill also included a sales tax exemption for natural gas used to generate electricity in a non-combustion fuel cell, an expansion of an aircraft parts and maintenance tax exemption, a sales tax distribution schedule for constructing or renovating baseball spring training facilities; and a number of other tax credits.

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