Could Florida’s sales tax holidays be in jeopardy?

The Florida Retail Federation on Tuesday urged state lawmakers to extend a series of sales tax holidays, saying the tax breaks are not only popular with shoppers, but also spur spending and boost the economy.

Laura Palacio, 13, of West Palm Beach, tries on a backpack that she likes with her sister Mayra Palacio, at the Target on Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., July 30, 2014, in West Palm Beach. Laura chose the back to school supplies that she needs for the upcoming year and plans to come back and buy them when the tax free holiday begins Friday. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)
Laura Palacio, 13, of West Palm Beach, tries on a backpack that she likes with her sister Mayra Palacio, at the Target on Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., July 30, 2014, in West Palm Beach. Laura chose the back to school supplies that she needs for the upcoming year and plans to come back and buy them when the tax free holiday begins Friday. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

The federation said a strike all amendment filed in the Senate would remove all sales tax holidays — including breaks for back-to-school shopping, hurricane preparedness, and energy-efficient appliances — from the House tax package (HB 7099). The Senate was slated to hear the strike all amendment on Tuesday but temporarily postponed the discussion, the federation said in a news release.

“For almost 20 years, Florida families have relied on these sales tax holidays as a way to provide for and protect their loved ones, and we’re concerned that removing them from the House tax package means consumers won’t be able to experience this important tax relief,” said FRF President/CEO Randy Miller. “If the Senate ultimately decides to keep these holidays out of the House bill, then we encourage them to pass the individual bills for these important sales tax holidays including Back-to-School, Disaster Preparedness and Energy Star.”

The Senate could also consider the Back-to-School (SB 198), Disaster Preparedness (SB 608) and Energy-Star (SB 870) sales tax holidays as standalone bills, the federation said. However, none of the legislation has been considered by the senate’s Committee on Appropriations, a move that must happen before it can be sent to the senate floor, the federation said.

The federation said consumers have come to rely on the sales tax holidays. Retail experts argue that shoppers prefer salestax holidays over sales and discounts offered by individual retailers.

The tax break also boosts wages for retail employees, the federation said.

“In general, retailers say they get an average increase of between 30 and 40 percent in store traffic over the weekend because of the sales tax holiday,” the federation said.

Tax refunds are for saving, not shopping this year

A growing number of consumers plan to put money they receive from their tax refund into their savings accounts.

The National Retail Federation’s annual Tax Returns Survey found 49.2 percent of those expecting a refund this year plan to save the money rather than spend it right away — the highest percentage in the survey’s history.tax form

“Consumers are boosting their confidence and building their spending power as they set aside their checks from Uncle Sam,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Americans this year see refund season as a time to improve their financial health by using their refunds to get ahead on savings goals, pay down debt and plan for purchases in the future. Money saved is spending potential down the road.”

In addition to savings, 34.9 percent plan of those surveyed plan to use their tax refunds to pay down debt, according to the survey, which was  conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics.

The survey also found: 22.4 percent will use the refunds for everyday expenses; 11.4 percent plan to book a vacation;  9.2 percent plan to spend on major purchases like a television or car; and 8.3 percent planning to indulge on a purchase like a salon or spa service.