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Alabama holds its first-ever severe weather sales tax holiday July 6-8

The deadly Tuscaloosa tornado of 2011 has tax ramifications beyond the usual disaster tax relief for its victims.

In the wake of that twister and at the recommendation of the governor's special Tornado Recovery Action Council, Alabama legislators created the state's first sales tax holiday for severe weather supplies.

The Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday began at 12:01 a.m. today, Friday, July 6, and runs until midnight Sunday, July 8.


The official announcement of the inaugural tax-free event came as Tropical Storm Debby was churning in the Gulf of Mexico just southeast of Alabama's coast.

"Tropical Storm Debby is a good example of the importance of being prepared for severe weather," said Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Art Faulkner. "With the unknowns of any tropical system, preparing in advance can make a real difference."

Storm preparation items that are exempt from Alabama's 4 percent sales tax fall into three broad categories:

Radios and Lighting -- Portable self-powered or battery-powered radios, two-way radios, weather band radios and NOAA weather radios; portable self-powered lights, including battery-powered flashlights, lanterns or emergency glow sticks; and batteries to run the radios and lights, as well as cell phone batteries and chargers (but not the phones themselves).

Home protections -- Tarpaulins, plastic sheeting and drop cloths and other flexible waterproof sheeting; ground anchor systems, such as bungee cords or rope; duct tape; plywood, window film or other materials specifically designed to protect windows; fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; gas or diesel fuel tanks; and first aid kits.

Food storage -- Non-electric food coolers and water storage containers; manual can openers; and artificial ice, blue ice, ice packs and reusable ice.

All of the above items are exempt from Alabama's sales tax as long as each individual item's cost is $60 or less.

Portable generators and power cords to help you make it through a power outage also are tax-free as long as the equipment costs $1,000 or less.

Local participation options: Any Alabama county or city can opt to join the sales tax holiday and around 200 have chosen to participate. Those that opted out did so primarily because of local revenue concerns.

The Alabama Department of Revenue has the official list of participating and nonparticipating jurisdictions.

In towns and counties that have opted out, the state sales tax will be waived on eligible storm-related items, but the local levies still will apply.

Earlier in 2013: Alabama residents also should note the severe weather sales tax holiday's date change in coming years.

Future editions of the tax-free event will be on the last full weekend of February.

In 2013, that will be Feb. 22-24, close to Alabama's second annual Severe Weather Awareness Week.

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