3 states offer hurricane tax holidays

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The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is on the horizon and three states are taking tax steps to get their residents ready.

Florida, Louisiana and Virginia are holding sales tax holidays that will provide shoppers savings on some storm preparation items.

Here’s a look at the upcoming tax holiday opportunities and the items that are covered.

Louisiana, May 24-25

Flashlights, batteries, portable generators and other emergency supplies are among the items that will be free from Louisiana’s 4 percent state sales tax on Memorial Day weekend.

The no-tax status applies to the first $1,500 of the purchase price of each approved storm-related product. The items include portable self-powered light sources and batteries; portable radios, including two-way and weather band varieties; tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting; ground anchor systems or tie-down kits; storm shutters or other window protection devices; gas or diesel fuel tanks; cellular phone batteries and chargers; non-electric food storage coolers and any blue ice product; generators, and carbon monoxide detectors.

Sales tax will still be collected, however, on car and boat batteries. And the tax holiday does not extend to hurricane-preparedness items or supplies purchased at shops in airports, hotels, entertainment complexes or at convenience stores.

And don’t be surprised by some tax collections. Cities and other local taxing jurisdictions have the option to waive their sales taxes during the holiday period, but aren’t required to do so.

Virginia, May 25-31

Virginia shoppers won’t owe the state’s 5.3 percent sales tax on most storm-related products that cost up to $60.

The items that Virginia is exempting from sales tax during the hurricane shopping holiday include artificial and reusable ice products; flashlights, lanterns and glow sticks; batteries; portable, two-way and weather band radios; tarps and similar waterproof sheeting; bungee cords, ropes and ground anchor systems; smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; fire extinguishers; gas or diesel fuel tanks; bottled water and water storage containers; non-electric food storage coolers; storm shutter devices; manual can openers; cellphone chargers, and first-aid kits.

A couple of categories, however, have higher tax-free price limits.

No tax will be assessed during the state’s weeklong hurricane holiday on generators costing $1,000 or less or, new this year, on gas-powered chain saws costing $350 or less. Chain saw accessories, however, must be priced at the $60 or less level in order to be free of Virginia sales tax.

Florida, May 31-June 8

Florida is new to the hurricane tax holiday scene this year. The Sunshine State is giving its residents nine days to get ready for tropical storms and hurricanes by exempting a variety of products from the state’s 6 percent sales tax.

The items are similar to the tax-free ones in Virginia and Louisiana. Florida shoppers, however, will need to pay closer attention to product prices since the state exempts products from sales tax across six cost levels.

Reusable ice packs that are $10 or less are tax-free. At the $20 or less level, Floridians can avoid tax on battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, gas-powered lanterns, Tiki torches and candles.

Gas or diesel fuel containers are covered if they are $25 or less. Batteries (except for autos and boats), non-electric food storage coolers and ice chests and first-aid kits that cost $30 or less are tax-free.

Tax-free storm items in the $50 or less range include tarps, other types of waterproof covers, ground anchor systems, tie-down kits, bungee cords, ratchet straps and portable radios, including two-way and weather band types.

Florida’s top tax-free price range, $750 or less, applies to portable generators.

Each state’s tax department website has more details on the holidays.

So get to work on your storm shopping lists, Floridians, Virginians and Louisianans, and get ready to save while you’re getting ready for hurricane season.

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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book “The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes” and co-author of the e-book “Future Millionaires’ Guidebook.”