Zero-Rated Hurricane Preparedness Supplies: It’s Time to Stock Up

FLORIDA — From the moment they opened their doors Saturday morning, Carolann Nixon, store manager of Ace Hardware on Bloomingdale Avenue in Brandon, said there’s been a steady stream of determined customers.

They came to stock up on hurricane preparedness supplies on the first day of Florida’s sales tax exemption, which runs from May 28 to June 10.

With the official start of hurricane season on June 1, just two days away, hurricane preparers are taking advantage of the state’s offer for residents to stock up on hurricane supplies tax-free.

Clutching lists of duty-free items eligible for purchase, customers browsed the shelves, grabbing batteries, flashlights, lanterns and sandbags.

“We’re really hard at work today,” Nixon said with a laugh, as the cash registers steadily register sales.

The amount of savings customers will see during the duty-free holiday depends on the amount of supplies they buy and the cost of those supplies, she said.

But she said she’s seen customers save $5 to $100. And with current inflation combined with supply shortages, even a few dollars can help a family, she said.

Among the biggest sellers, Nixon said, by far are batteries, flashlights and water cases to help families through prolonged power outages and water shortages.

The Florida Department of Revenue said the two-week tax-free vacation period ending Friday, June 10 includes:

  • Reusable ice cream (ice packs)
  • Any portable self-powered light source (battery, solar, hand crank or gas powered) including flashlights, candles and lanterns
  • Any container of gas or diesel fuel, including LPG and kerosene containers
  • Batteries, including rechargeable batteries, sizes shown only (excluding automotive and marine batteries
  • batteries): AA battery and AAA battery, C battery, D battery, 6 volts, 9 volts
  • Two-Way Radios and Weather Band (Battery, Solar, or Crank Powered) Qualifying light sources and radios are eligible for the exemption even though electrical cords are included in the purchase.
  • Non-electric coolers for food storage
  • Portable Power Banks
  • Added this year, smoke detectors, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Tarps or other waterproof flexible tarpaulins
  • Ground anchor systems
  • Tie-down kits
  • Elastic cords
  • Ratchet Straps
  • Portable generators (sold for $1,000 or less) used to provide light or communications, or to preserve food in the event of a power outage.

Additionally, through the efforts of Palm Harbor Girl Scout Troop No. 60601, House Speaker Chris Sprows, R-Palm Harbor, convinced the Legislature to add pet supplies to the eligible list of tax-free items.

Florida House of Representatives
Speaker of the House Chris Sprows, R-Palm Harbor, poses on the floor of the House with members of Palm Harbor Pathfinder Troop #60601 and Troop Leader Kristen Crawford.

Last spring, the troop’s seven Scouts began brainstorming ideas for their Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest award for school-aged girls. Since they collectively have 15 pets, the girls decided to start an online petition to have pet items included on the zero-rated hurricane list.

Troupe leader Kristen Crawford even took the girls to Tallahassee to address the House about their proposal. They found a champion in Sprawls who submitted a bill to the House that was approved in the 2022 legislative session.

Tax-exempt pet items during the duty-free holiday this year include:

  • Cans or pouches of wet pet food sold for $2 or less per can or pouch or equivalent if sold in a box or case
  • Collapsible or travel food or water bowls sold for $15 or less per item
  • Manual can openers sold for $15 or less per item
  • Cat litter boxes sold for $15 or less
  • Pet waste disposal bags sold for $15 or less per pack
  • Hamster or rabbit substrate sold for $15 or less per pack
  • Leashes, collars and muzzles sold for $20 or less
  • Pet pads sold for $20 or less per box or package
  • Cat litter weighing 25 pounds or less and selling for $25 or less
  • Bags of dry pet food weighing 15 pounds or less and selling for $30 or less
  • Pet beds sold for $40 or less
  • Portable kennels or pet carriers sold for $100 or less

There is no limit to the number of eligible items that can be purchased duty free.

Not included on duty-free vacations are hotel charges, airfare, tickets to theme parks or entertainment resorts, commercial purchases of escape supplies for eligible pets, rental or repairs to any of the eligible duty-free items, items purchased with gift cards, and items purchased with rain checks after the tax-free period.

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