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Retailers navigate Florida 'Freedom Week' sales tax holiday

Posted at 5:21 AM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-03 09:23:40-04

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Florida’s first-ever “Freedom Week” is underway. It’s a sales tax holiday, similar to “Disaster Preparedness Week” and the “Back-to-School” tax break.

From July 1 until July 7, you’ll pay less sales tax for tickets to things like concerts, movies, and sporting events, as long as they will be held between now and December 31.

A long list of outdoor recreational items like sunscreen, water bottles, bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, and fishing and camping supplies are also included.

Even though Freedom Week is similar to Florida’s other tax holidays, there are some big differences and some possible bumps in the road.

Darry Jackson, the Co-President of Bill Jackson's in Pinellas Park, an outdoor sporting goods store in Pinellas Park.

“Kayaks, we have paddleboards, fishing gear, some backpacks, hydration system, water bottles,” said Jackson.

He is happy about the holiday.

“I think it’s wonderful. It’ll definitely bring people in, and we want people to go to the outdoors. Anything can help,” said Jackson.

But the Freedom Week stipulations haven’t come without their kinks for the outdoor retailer.

“What we know is whoever wrote this law was never a cashier,” said Jackson.

They say the problems come at the cash register, and when it comes to keeping proper counts of inventory and margins.

“There really isn’t a way to tell your register to only tax a certain amount,” said Dee Schilling, an employee at Bill Jackson’s.

That’s the big difference between Florida’s Disaster Preparedness or Back-to-School sales tax holidays and this one.

For Disaster Preparedness and Back-to-School, items are exempt from sales tax as long as they are at or below a certain price.

For example, a cooler during Disaster Preparedness is sales-tax exempt, as long as it is $60 or less. If the cooler is more than $60, you’ll pay sales tax on the whole thing.

“Very easy. Either taxed or non-taxed,” said Schilling.

But for Freedom Week, things are a bit different.

Let’s use the cooler example again. For this holiday, the first $75 dollars of a cooler are sales tax-exempt. If the cooler is more than $75 dollars, the remaining portion will be taxed, so you’re still saving a little money.

But for retailers, it’s not so simple.

“If you word something that says ‘on the first $5 of the sales price,' you’re gonna have to refund that amount of tax, $0.35, there’s no button for that,” said Schilling.

But from the perspective of the Florida Retail Federation, they believe these kinks are things that can be worked through.

“These are good problems to have. We’ve got to work through the stumbling blocks of a first of anything. I have heard concerns about ‘how do you classify items,’ and ‘how do you program your systems,’ because so much is automated, so sure, we’ll work with the legislature, we’ll work with the Department of Revenue to streamline and have as much efficiency to it as we can, but we have no complaints in general,” said Scott Shalley, President and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

They’re hoping to see the holiday come around year after year.

“I think it provides a great opportunity for Floridians to support each other, really, because when you shop local or you travel local or you vacation local, you’re supporting the people that support your local communities,” said Shalley.

From the perspective of the Florida Taxwatch, they’re also glad to have it and think it’s coming at a great time.

“I think it shows a great deal of sensitivity. It’s unique,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President, and CEO of Florida Taxwatch.

However, they’re not so sure it should be an annual thing.

“I’m not sure it should be done every year. I mean, it’s nice to do, I do think that people have to be accustomed to paying the sales taxes,” said Calabro.

Regardless, it’s here for 2021, running from July 1 to the 7, and Bill Jackson’s thinks they’ve got things worked out.

But they’re hoping if it does come back, that the state legislature can re-word the rules of the holiday to make things easier on them.

“If they would say ‘all paddle boards under $500, no tax, then we’ll be able to accommodate that easily,” said Jackson.

But until then, they're asking for patience from customers.

“Just understand, some shops may have difficulty, we may stumble a little bit, but we’re hoping we’ve done everything to make it a nice experience for the customers and our cashiers,” said Schilling.

Here’s a full breakdown of qualifying items included in this year’s Freedom Week:


  • Live music events*+
  • Live sporting events*
  • Movies*
  • Museum entry, including annual passes
  • State park entry, including annual passes
  • Ballets*+
  • Plays*+
  • Musical theater performances*+
  • Fairs*
  • Festivals*
  • Cultural events*
  • Private and membership clubs providing physical fitness facilities*

*To be held on any date(s) from July 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021
+Including season tickets

General Outdoor Supplies

  • The first $15 of the sales price of:
    • Sunscreen
    • Insect repellent
  • The first $30 of the sales price of:
    • Water bottles
  • The first $50 of the sales price of:
    • Hydration packs
    • Bicycle helmets
  • The first $100 of the sales price of:
    • Sunglasses
  • The first $200 of the sales price of:
    • Binoculars
  • The first $250 of the sales price of:
    • Outdoor gas or charcoal grills
    • Bicycles
    • Fishing Supplies
  • The first $5 of the sales price of:
    • Bait or fishing tackle if sold individually (the first $10 if sold as a set)
  • The first $30 of the sales price of:
    • Tackle boxes or bags
  • The first $75 of the sales price of:
    • Rods and reels if sold individually (the first $150 if sold as a set)

Boating and Water Activity Supplies

  • The first $25 of the sales price of:
    • Snorkels
    • Goggles
    • Swimming masks
  • The first $50 of the sales price of:
    • Safety flares
  • The first $75 of the sales price of:
    • Life jackets
    • Coolers
    • Paddles
    • Oars
  • The first $150 of the sales price of:
    • Water skis
    • Wakeboards
    • Kneeboards
    • Recreational inflatable water tubes or floats capable of being towed
  • The first $300 of the sales price of:
    • Paddleboards
    • Surfboards
  • The first $500 of the sales price of:
    • Canoes
    • Kayaks

Camping Supplies

  • The first $30 of the sales price of:
    • Camping lanterns
    • Flashlights
  • The first $50 of the sales price of:
    • Sleeping bags
    • Portable hammocks
    • Camping stoves
    • Collapsible camping chairs
  • The first $200 of the sales price of:
    • Tents
    • Sports Equipment
  • Any item used in individual or team sports, not including clothing or

footwear, selling for $40 or less

Freedom Week