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Tax break approved for hurricane supplies

The state Senate approved a bill that creates a sales-tax holiday on hurricane preparedness supplies from June 1-12.

By JONI JAMES
Published May 4, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Need batteries? You may want to wait. Between June 1-12 you can buy them tax free.

Less than a year after four hurricanes raked Florida shore-to-shore, the state Senate on Wednesday sent a bill to Gov. Jeb Bush creating a 12-day sales-tax holiday on hurricane preparedness supplies, including the most popular-size batteries, tarps, radios, coolers and even generators worth up to $750.

"It's never too early to start thinking about the next hurricane season," said sponsor Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis."

The new-fangled break, expected to save Floridians roughly $9.3-million, came as state senators approved again the popular sales tax holiday for back-to-school clothing, supplies and books for the last nine-days of July. That break is expected to save shoppers an estimated $52-million.

"This is a great thing we sometimes do every year," bill sponsor Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, said as he introduced the back-to-school break. "Every single person can benefit from this tax break."

The governor will sign both bills, which are part of a $63.5-billion budget agreement for 2005-06.

"I'm proud of the fact that in seven years we've cut taxes every year," said Bush, who took office in January 1999. "We're probably the only state in the country to do that."

The two bills mark the broadest - but not biggest - tax relief state lawmakers are expected to approve before their scheduled adjournment Friday.

The biggest tax cut, a compromise agreement that is awaiting final approval in both the House and Senate, would actually affect fewer than 216,000 individuals or couples, most of them wealthy, who pay a tax on stocks and bonds they hold.

Lawmakers have agreed to cut the so-called intangibles tax rate from $1 per $1,000 in value to 50-cents, which will cost about $130-million.

The change would mark the fourth time since Bush took office in 1999 that the intangibles tax has been whittled.

Under current law, only individuals or businesses that hold at least $250,000 in stocks or bonds outside IRAs or 401(K)'s pay the tax; for married couples the threshold is $500,000.

Because the law requires collection only once the tax bill is more than $60, in practice only individual stockholders with a portfolio valued at $310,000 pay the tax; among couples, $560,000.

State lawmakers are also expected to send the governor a $11.3-million tax break for agricultural equipment bought by working farms or ranches. Such equipment is currently taxed at 2.5-percent, less than half the 6-percent state sales tax.

Other tax cuts include expanding a tax break for businesses that contribute to low-cost housing projects, such as Habitat for Humanity, from $10-million annually to $12-million; and renewing a sales tax break for solar energy equipment, at a cost of about $1.2-million.

-- Reporter Carrie Johnson contributed to this report.

[Last modified May 4, 2005, 18:08:02]


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