AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting Saturday, you can prepare for the unexpected and buy a number of items to use during hurricanes, flash floods or wildfires and get those items just a little bit cheaper.
From April 24 to 26, Texas will have an Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday.
Natural disasters are occurring at a much higher frequency both in Texas and across the United States. In the past 10 years, Texas has had its worst wildfire season, its costliest hurricane, its most active hurricane season and its costliest winter storm.
That doesn’t even include deadly tornadoes, floods and damaging hail storms.
This year, the Texas Comptroller’s Office is expecting Texans to save around $1.8 million, more than ever before. That’s in part due to heightened awareness, since the winter storm in February this year left millions in the dark. A complete list of qualified items is at the bottom of the article.
Hardware stores like Austin Outdoor Power are prepping for the weekend rush.
“Hatchets, fuel containers and the generators are the big hit for us,” said Jeff Oden at the supplies store Friday.
Oden said the day before the winter storm, the store sold out of its generators in just a matter of hours. He said he wished he had bought one for himself that week.
“I said, ‘Nah, it’s not gonna be that bad,” Oden recollected. “But when you need it, you better have one, because I went for five and a half days without any heat in my house. I was one of those guys. And I’m gonna tell you, I felt like I was dying.”
Saving the 8% tax on smaller items like fuel containers might not seem like you’re saving that much money. But when you’re spending $3,000 on a generator, you’re going to be saving $240 this weekend.
“Winter storms aren’t the only thing that can knock out your electricity. Tornadoes can. Lightning can, hurricanes can, hailstorms can,” Kevin Lyons with the Comptroller’s Office said Friday. “This weekend gives them a chance to get ahead of the game, buy the items they need and save some money.”
Lyons also explained the same tax breaks are available online, too, but keep track of your total.
“Think about the shipping and handling costs. And if that takes the price over that price-point we mentioned earlier, then you no longer qualify for the tax exempt status of an item,” Lyons explained.
He said the tax break should kick in automatically for Texans shopping online. But, if you get a sales tax charge, there’s a form you can fill out and submit to the Comptroller online for reimbursement.
Through this event, you can buy a number of items at a discount:
- Less than $3,000
- Portable generators
- Less than $300
- Emergency ladders
- Hurricane shutters
- Less than $75
- Batteries, single or multipack (AAA cell, AA cell, C cell, D cell, 6 volt or 9 volt)
- Can openers — nonelectric
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Coolers and ice chests for food storage — nonelectric
- Fire extinguishers
- First aid kits
- Fuel containers
- Ground anchor systems and tie-down kits
- Ice products — reusable and artificial
- Light sources — portable self-powered (including battery operated)
- Examples of items include: candles, flashlights and lanterns
- Mobile telephone batteries and mobile telephone chargers
- Radios — portable self-powered (including battery operated) — includes two-way and weather band radios
- Smoke detectors
- Tarps and other plastic sheeting
Note: Several over-the-counter self-care items, such as antibacterial hand sanitizer, soap, spray and wipes, are always exempt from sales tax if they are labeled with a “Drug Facts” panel in accordance with federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.
What you should keep in your emergency kit
Ready.gov suggests you keep the following items in your disaster kit:
- Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Manual can opener (for food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ready also suggests adding masks and disinfecting wipes to the kit. If you have a family pet, make sure you’re thinking of them, too, by storing supplies and food for them. For young children, it may be good to add books or puzzle games as well.
Lastly, make sure to keep important documents like identification, bank account information and insurance policies in a waterproof container that is easily portable.