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December 21, 2014

Good timing for severe weather tax holiday

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Posted: Saturday, February 15, 2014 3:26 am

The timing of this year’s Severe Weather Sales Tax Holiday could hardly be better. With emergency situations all around us during the recent winter storm and storm warnings, people all across our part of the country have a heightened awareness of the dangers and potential dangers we could face. That awareness is the first step toward being prepared for emergencies. Next weekend, Feb. 21-23, shoppers in Alabama can get a discount for doing so.

The tax holiday runs for three days, from 12:01 a.m. Friday until midnight Sunday, when the state of Alabama will waive its 4 percent sales or use tax on a specific list of items appropriate for use in homes during emergencies. Some 225 cities and counties are also waiving local taxes, including Talladega, Sylacauga, Childersburg, Talladega County and St. Clair County. That will translate into savings of 10 percent in most areas.

Only three states in the country have a severe weather preparedness sales tax holiday. Louisiana and Virginia have theirs in May.

The Alabama Retail Association and the Red Cross are encouraging residents to plan for emergencies and take advantage of the opportunity to stock up.

The tax break applies to a wide range of items costing less than $60 that every home and business might need in an emergency. They include flashlights, lanterns, first-aid kits, manual can openers and fire extinguishers. Battery-powered or hand-crank radios are on the list, cell phone chargers, plastic sheeting, tie-down kits, bungee cords or rope. Two-way radios are covered, and, of course, duct tape. So are most types of batteries used in household devices, but not auto batteries, marine batteries or coin-type batteries. Generators costing $1,000 or less also qualify. Other items include coolers and ice packs, smoke/fire/carbon monoxide detectors. For a full list check the alabamaretail.org website.

Of course it’s not just winter storms we have to worry about. Any number of other emergencies can occur that can damage or destroy homes, interrupt services, disrupt transportation and cut off access to the rest of the world.

Alabama held its first severe weather preparedness tax holiday following the tornado outbreak in April 2011, which left 322 people dead across six states and billions of dollars of property damage in its wake. Alabama suffered the most, with 239 deaths, 22 of them in neighboring St. Clair County and Calhoun County. In all, 358 tornadoes were confirmed in that storm system. Nothing is normal in the wake of such a catastrophe, but advance preparations can make the days following a disaster more comfortable or survivable.

The retail association recommends having enough supplies in emergency kits to last 72 hours following a disaster, and recommends the website ready.gov for good advice on planning ahead.

Alabama is not a state that can afford to sacrifice tax revenue, but our legislators and governor saw the need to encourage our people to plan ahead to be ready for emergencies or disasters. Think about the kinds of disasters most likely to occur in your community. Have a family disaster plan, and practice it. If possible, have at least one family member get training in first aid and CPR. And have an emergency kit and supplies on hand just in case.

With memories of disasters still fresh in our minds, it’s a perfect time to plan ahead, and the tax break will help stretch the dollars a bit farther.

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