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Florida discretionary sales surtax stuff

The longer I live in this state, the more I learn about how things are done here, including sales taxes. One that I just discovered recently was what's called the discretionary sales surtax.

How I discovered this

I made a purchase recently, looked at my receipt and said, "Hang on.. this can't be right."

Florida State sales tax is 6%. I did the math and it turned out I was charged 7%, so at that point I had to find out where this extra 1% of sales tax came from. I did some digging for info, and that's when I found out about the discretionary stuff.

What is a Florida discretionary sales surtax?

First, you have to know what a surtax is, which is literally an extra tax or charge.

Second, you have to pay keen attention to the word discretionary, which concerning Florida more or less means "as needed".

Put the two together and it means "an extra tax as needed".

Where is discretionary sales surtax applied?

On a county level. What this means is that how much you pay in sales tax literally depends where you purchase a taxable item in Florida.

Fortunately there's a nice PDF that lists where discretionary sales surtaxes are applied and moreover how much surtax you're going to pay.

In Hillsborough County where I live the 1% comes from two 0.5% surtaxes. This means for anything I buy that's taxable, I'm paying 7%, state + local surtaxes combined.

What's the big deal about one percent?

At lower prices it won't bother you too much, but the higher you go, the more you get whacked.

Retail price: $99.99
Retail price + 6%: $105.99
Retail price + 7%: $106.99
Difference between 6% and 7% tax: $1.00

Retail price: $199.99
Retail price + 6%: $211.99
Retail price + 7%: $213.99
Difference between 6% and 7% tax: $2.00

Retail price: $249.99
Retail price + 6%: $264.99
Retail price + 7%: $267.49
Difference between 6% and 7% tax: $2.50

Retail price: $299.99
Retail price + 6%: $317.99
Retail price + 7%: $320.99
Difference between 6% and 7% tax: $3.00

If for whatever you're buying is $250 or more, you're going to feel the pinch.

Florida-specific goodness/weirdness, "surtax holiday"

In what can only be described as a "Florida thing", they do in fact take "tax holidays". The one that happened recently was back in August. It applied to books, clothing and school supplies so parents could afford more for their kids for the new school year. The "holiday" lasted two days. Better than nothing, I suppose.

Does this mean it's a good idea to hop counties just to save a buck in Florida?

If you're close enough to where you don't burn up the gas driving over a county line, and the neighboring county has lower or no sales surtaxes, yes.

Of the Central West region, the cheapest place concerning surtaxes right now is Citrus County. Why? Because they have none.

And why do I say "right now"? Because Citrus County could at their discretion throw on 1% surtax in the 2011 year, so there's no guarantee their zero-surtax way of doing things will remain constant.

End result?

What I have to do now is look at the chart every year to see what Hillsborough is doing concerning this discretionary surtax stuff. I am the type of person who does calculate exactly what I'm going to spend + taxes before I buy it.

Hopefully Hillsborough will drop the discretionary to 0.5% or 0% in the 2011 year. Hey, it could happen. 🙂

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