Florida Senate eyes tax breaks for diapers, school needs

April 4, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) – A series of proposed tax breaks, from exemptions on baby and adult diapers to creating a tax “holiday” for back-to-school items, advanced Thursday in the Senate and could end up as part of negotiations with the House.

With limited debate, the Senate Finance and Tax Committee approved the proposals two days after the House Ways & Means Committee introduced a $102.4 million tax-relief package centered on reducing a lease tax paid on commercial property.

The House package, which will get its first hearing next week, also includes a three-day back-to-school sales tax “holiday” on clothes, school supplies and computers and a seven-day tax “holiday” on hurricane supplies.

On the Senate side, the Finance and Tax Committee backed proposals that would create sales-tax exemptions for diapers and incontinence products (SB 60); hold a 10-day holiday period in early August in which sales taxes would be lifted on clothes, school supplies and electronics (SB 576); and allow investments in rural areas to earn insurance-premium tax credits (SB 298).

“We believe this is a unique solution, if you will, a partial solution to the help that all rural Florida needs,” said Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democratic who is sponsoring the rural investment program. “A study that the (Florida) Chamber (of Commerce) did showed that there are fewer jobs in these counties today than there were five years ago.”

Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said her proposal to provide a tax break on diapers is a way to help young families.

“Once their children age out of diapers, 90 percent of families say they use that money for food,” Book said.

The diaper tax break and back-to-school holiday proposal would combine to reduce state and local revenues by $96 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The back-to-school tax holiday would account for $76 million of the savings, of which $15.5 million would be felt by local governments.

“It’s really not about the cost to the state, it’s really about saving taxpayers and really working-class families with kids,” said Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican who is sponsoring the holiday proposal.

The Senate tax holiday would be longer than the House version and would have other differences.

The Senate “holiday” proposal would provide sales-tax breaks on clothes that cost $100 or less, school supplies that cost $15 or less, and personal computers and related accessories that cost up to $1,000. The House proposal, for example, would provide the break on clothes that cost $60 or less.

A separate Senate proposal (SB 1412) establishing a 14-day disaster-preparation tax holiday was backed by the Finance and Tax Committee last month.

The largest part of the House tax-cut package seeks to reduce the tax rate on commercial leases from 5.7 percent to 5.35 percent. With cutting the tax long a priority of business interests, the proposal is projected to produce a savings of $47.9 million in 2020, when it would only be in place half of the fiscal year. The savings would grow to an estimated $99.9 million a year.