Labor Day Weekend brings first ‘Tool Time’ tax holiday benefiting skilled trades

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Florida picked up a new hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic: fixing up new sales tax holidays to celebrate working Floridians.

From the Legislature that brought you “Freedom Week” comes the “Tool Time” tax holiday, a seven-day reprieve on sales taxes for tools commonly used by skilled trade workers. The holiday begins Saturday with the three-day Labor Day Weekend and carries through Sept. 9.

Labor Day became a federal legal holiday in 1894 to celebrate the contributions of American workers. Its origins can be found in protests of the late 19th century that were violently put down.

Some argue Labor Day was an attempt to quell the labor movement as they advocated for an eight-hour workday as well as the socialist movement. Regardless, within decades, corporations were raising wages for employees and implementing eight-hour workdays, either voluntarily or by federal decree.

Back in the post-pandemic world, lawmakers dreamt up the “Tool Time” holiday this year to benefit mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and more. But during the pandemic, many people became their own handyman, and everyone is welcome to participate in the holiday.

When lawmakers first presented the idea, some lauded it as a gift to blue-collar workers, and others suggested it would help lower the barrier for entry into skilled trades.

Because the tax holiday coincides with Labor Day, it also coincides with Labor Day sales available at Home Depot, Lowe’s and other home improvement stores.

State economists anticipate Floridians will save $12.4 million in sales taxes over the course of the week. But that’s just one lost bolt in the junk drawer — a drop in the tax break bucket. Overall, the state’s tax package is expected to save Floridians $1.1 billion in taxes this year, a record amount.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure in May after it originated in House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ chamber. Senate President Wilton Simpson and his chamber helped negotiate the final product that reached DeSantis’ desk.

Lawmakers are praising the holiday, but so too are organizations that advocate for businesses and taxpayers.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate Florida’s skilled workers,” said Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “Whether you’re a seasoned worker, interested in launching a trade career or consider home improvement a hobby, now is your chance to load up your toolbox.”

Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, said Floridians can gear up for home improvement projects with power tools, toolboxes, work boots and more.

“This first-ever sales tax exemption will be helpful for everyday homeowners, and it will also significantly benefit construction workers and skilled tradesmen whose livelihood depend on quality tools and reliable equipment,” Calabro said.

“As we deal with the financial hardships resulting from record-high inflation, Florida TaxWatch commends Gov. DeSantis, President Simpson, Speaker Sprowls, and the entire Florida Legislature for establishing this week-long Labor Day observance to support hardworking Florida taxpayers and help them enhance their homes, businesses, and quality of life.”

The Labor Day tax holiday is the latest holiday added to the sales tax holiday cycle after “Freedom Week,” which DeSantis and the Legislature renewed for a second year this year. That holiday waives sales taxes on outdoor activities and outdoor gear surrounding the Fourth of July.

Florida also routinely grants sales tax holidays for the back-to-school season and the hurricane season. However, the Legislature extended those holidays to 14 days each this year for the first time ever.

Additionally, lawmakers also have one more tax holiday in their toolbox this year — a reprieve from state and local gas taxes throughout the month of October. That is expected to save Floridians $200 million in the weeks leading up to the Midterm Elections, a point of contention for Florida Democrats.

During the “Tool Time” tax holiday from Sept. 3-9, the following items are tax-free:

— Toolboxes for vehicles selling for $300 or less

— Power tools selling for $300 or less

— Work boots selling for $175 or less

— Power tool batteries selling for $150 or less

— Handheld pipe cutters, drain opening tools, and plumbing inspection equipment selling for $150 or less

— Industry textbooks and code books selling for $125 or less

— Tool belts selling for $100 or less

— Electrical voltage and testing equipment selling for $100 or less

— Shop lights selling for $100 or less

— Toolboxes selling for $75 or less

— Hand tools selling for $50 or less

— Safety glasses selling for $50 or less per pair or bundle

— Protective coveralls selling for $50 or less

— Duffle bags or tote bags selling for $50 or less

— LED flashlights selling for $50 or less

— Work gloves selling for $25 or less

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