Weather changes from an expected El Niño system this year should slow down development of hurricanes this year, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns that is no excuse for not preparing for possible storms.
NOAA's 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook is for eight to 13 named storms, meaning they contain sustained winds of 39 mph or higher.
Meteorologists at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center expect three to six to become hurricanes. To reach that designation, the storms must have winds of 74 mph or higher.
And one or two of those hurricanes could grow to winds of 111 mph or higher, meaning they would be major -- Category 3, 4 or 5 -- hurricanes.
The 2014 predictions are near or below the seasonal averages of storms from 1981 to 2010.
Although the official term is the Atlantic hurricane season, the region covered includes the North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. It officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
And, as I noted earlier this week at Bankrate.com, three states in those areas-- Virginia, Louisiana and Florida -- are holding hurricane sales tax holidays.
As in past years for Virginia and Louisiana and new in the Sunshine State, the usual storm supply items are exempt from the states' and in some instances local sales taxes. The qualifying products include portable radios, flashlights and lanterns, batteries, food coolers, reusable ice, tarps, shutters and other window protection devices and generators.
Louisiana hurricane tax holiday, May 24-25
Louisiana kicks things off with a two-day hurricane sales tax holiday this Saturday, May 24, and Sunday, May 25.
The Pelican State is waiving its 4 percent sales tax on the first $1,500 of the sales price of each qualifying item. Check out the Louisiana Department of Revenue's tax holiday Web page for a full list of tax-exempt products.
Virginia hurricane tax holiday, May 25-31
Virginia is up next, with its holiday starting Sunday, May 25, and ending Saturday, May 31. During the week-long shopping event, Old Dominion shoppers won't have to pay the combined state/local 5.3 percent sales tax on a variety of storm-related items.
Virginia, however, offers differ tax-free price points for different products.
Most of the standard preparation needs will fall under the $60 limit. Virginians also will get sales-tax relief on generators costing $1,000 or less, as well as on gas-powered chainsaws costing $350 or less.
Check the Virginia Department of Taxation's PDF list of qualifying items for product and price details.
Florida hurricane tax holiday, May 31-June 8
Florida is the new kid on the hurricane sales tax holiday block, but the Sunshine State's event is the longest. Floridians have nine days -- from Sunday, May 31, through Sunday, June 8 -- to get ready for tropical storms and hurricanes.
During that period, retailers won't collect the state's 6 percent sales tax on a wide range of storm-related products across six price ranges: $10 or less, $20 or less, $25 or less, $30 or less, $50 or less and, taking a big jump, $750 or less.
Lower priced items include reusable ice and lighting supplies while the top tax-free tier covers portable generators. Florida's Department of Revenue PDF product list has details.
Texas Energy Star tax holiday, May 24-26
Texas has 367 miles of Gulf Coast, with many of those beaches over the years weathering severe storms. The Lone Star State, however, is not holding a hurricane tax holiday.
Instead, Texans will be able avoid paying state and local sales taxes on some energy-efficient appliances during the state's Energy Star Memorial Day Weekend Sales Tax Holiday. It starts Saturday, May 24, and winds down on Monday, May 26.
The Lone Star State's sales tax is 6.25 percent. Local taxing jurisdictions -- cities, counties, special purpose districts and transit authorities -- may also impose sales tax of up to 2 percent, making the top sales tax rate in some locations <cough> Austin <cough> 8.25 percent. The temporary waiver of these sales tax collections, says the Texas Comptroller, is expected to save holiday weekend shoppers an estimated $3.8 million.
Tax-free items include incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs, clothes washers, dishwashers, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats and Energy Star-rated refrigerators priced at $2,000 and qualified air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less.
Check out the Texas Comptroller's Web page for details on appliance requirements, as well as information the tax-free (or not) status of shipping, delivery and installation charges, layaway plans and Internet and catalog purchases.
Tax breaks on unwanted holiday: Also last this week at my other tax blog, Senators took an unplanned holiday from consideration of the tax extenders.
While renewal of the 50-plus expired business and individual tax breaks is expected to eventually happen, it is being stalled by Republican demands that an Obamacare tax amendment be allowed.
GOP Senators, and some of their Democrat colleagues, want to repeal the medical device tax that was added to pay for the Affordable Care Act.
I typically post my additional tax thoughts at Bankrate Taxes Blog each Tuesday and Thursday. If you miss them there, you can get a round-up and links here on the ol' blog the following weekend, or earlier if I'm planning on taking off for a long holiday weekend!
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