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Florida's sales tax holiday is a hit with shoppers

5:07 PM, Aug 6, 2012   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - It seemed a little like Christmas in August at a lot of stores over the weekend as Floridians took advantage of the back-to-school sales tax holiday.

Shoppers paid no state or local sales taxes on a wide variety of items, including school supplies costing $15 or less, as well as clothing and shoes priced $75 or less.

Rick McAllister of the Florida Retail Federation says initial reports from retailers are all positive. He says some stores posted exceptional sales during the three-day tax break.

Florida's back-to-school sales tax holiday is the second biggest shopping period of the year behind Christmas.

McAllister says the past weekend offers a glimpse of how the all-important holiday shopping period will shape up for retailers.

"It really is a good deal for consumers. A lot of sales going on to try to attract people to stores, the tax-free situation helps out and it's also a little bit of a precursor to what Christmas is going to be like for retailers because if consumers are confident, if they're spending money during the back-to-school period it generally means they'll spend money during Christmas."

McAllister adds with a laugh that some Floridians would love to see the tax break last longer.

"People say, how can we get those three days to go longer."

The first back-to-school sales tax holiday was held in 1998 and ran for seven days. It has lasted for as long as nine days in some years.

The tax break was estimated to save shoppers more than $30 million over the three days.

But the state still gains by offering the tax break. One study found the 2010 sales tax holiday boosted overall retail sales by $115 million, which translated into an extra $7 million in tax collections for the state.

McAllister says it looks as if the 2012 sales tax holiday will surpass last year's back-to-school shopping period. He says consumer confidence is up about seven points over last year and that bodes well for the Christmas shopping season.

Dave Heller

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