Back-to-school kicks off with shorter tax holiday

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Keisha Oliver considers back-to-school shopping one of her biggest jobs as a parent.

"It is critical," she said. "If they don't have what they need to succeed, how can they learn?"

The 31-year-old single mom of four is working towards her own paralegal degree, so she needs all the help she can get. Tax free week brings 6-percent off clothes, books and supplies.

"If you are buying in bulk, it's a big difference," Oliver said. "That's a grocery bill."

But she will have seven fewer days because this year, legislators felt they had to offset losses in other areas of the budget. Instead of 10 tax-free days, there will be three, starting Friday.

"By the time I get there on [Friday], everybody is going to be there on [Friday], so half of the stuff is going to be gone, if you wait till the seventh, it might be all gone," she lamented.

Tampa State Rep. Janet Cruz, who supported this year's budget, said both sides recognized there just wasn't enough money coming in.

"I don't think there is a legislator in the House that is going to vote against a tax holiday for back-to-school," she said. "The questions, and the devil, was in the details."

There is a lower threshold on clothes, down from $100 to $60 before taxes kick in. Also, computers and accessories will be full fare, whereas last year anything below $750 was tax-free.

"They didn't give people enough time," said Oliver. "People have jobs, it's hard, they can't get in here on weekends like that. They have to squeeze it in on a Sunday. If you squeeze it in on a Sunday, everyone else is squeezing it in on a Sunday."

Rep. Cruz says she is going to push next year to bring the limit back to $100 on clothes, and have at least seven days of tax-free shopping.

School starts next week for most students.

Tax free times include:

-Clothing up to $60 per piece.
-Shoes up to $60 per pair.
-School Supplies up to $15 each: Sales tax will not be charged on items such as pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, and glue.
-Sales tax should not be charged on eligible items that are ordered online even if those items are delivered after the sales tax holiday ends.

Tax free items do not include:

-Personal computers and computer accessories are no longer subject to Florida Sales Tax Holiday.
-All books, besides the Bible, are still taxable during the Florida Sales Tax Holiday 2016.

For more information about the rules of this year's tax holiday, view or download this PDF.