What Items Are Sales Tax-Free in Florida?

Florida levies a 6 percent sales tax on all transactions within the state. Use tax is also charged if you buy a taxable item without paying sales tax at the time of purchase, or if you buy a Florida-taxable item out of state, avoid sales tax at the time of purchase, and then bring it into the Sunshine State. In addition to the statewide sales tax, Florida allows its individual counties to levy a discretionary surtax, which as of 2015 ranged from 0 to 1.5 percent. There is an extensive list of tax-exempt items, and state law exempts certain organizations, including state and federal agencies as well as non-profit groups, from paying sales tax on certain items.

Food and Groceries

Title XIV, Chapter 212 of the Florida statutes explains the state's sales tax laws and exemptions. First on the exempt list is food packaged or prepared for human consumption, which is sales tax-free unless it is prepared on-site for immediate or later use (deli meals or sandwiches, for example). Florida sales tax also applies to soft drinks, ice cream novelties, candy, and food sold from pushcarts, food trucks, cafeterias and restaurants.

Medical Products

Florida exempts prescription drugs as well as medical supplies sold by prescription, such as hypodermic needles, eyeglasses, hearing aids, test kits, artificial limbs, crutches, dentures and orthopedic shoes. Medical devices such as wheelchairs that are prescribed to assist the disabled are exempt, as are prescribed veterinary drugs. Non-prescription cosmetics, grooming articles and toiletries that may be sold in pharmacies are not exempt from sales tax.

Farm Equipment and Fuels

Power equipment used in Florida for the production of crops or finished lumber, or for fire suppression, is exempt from sales tax on purchase, rental or storage. Florida also exempts insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, seeds and nursery stock, and mulch or shade products used in crop or livestock production. Irrigation water is exempt, as is drinking water if no flavorings or carbonation has been added to it. Fuel used in the generation of electrical power is free of sales tax, as is the equipment and machinery used in power generation. Florida levies sales tax on motor vehicle fuel but exempts natural gas used in vehicles.

Enterprise and Empowerment Zones

To encourage economic development in certain areas, the state also exempts from sales tax building materials and equipment, as well as electrical energy, designated for use in "enterprise zones." The purchaser must pay the ordinary sales tax, if applicable to the item, then apply for a refund from the state's Department of Revenue. A similar tax incentive is available for materials used in the construction of owner-occupied single-family homes in enterprise zones as well as "empowerment zones" and the areas designated as part of the Front Porch Florida Community program.

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