Save money on tax-free emergency supplies weekend

At McCoy's Building Supply at 3661 W. Expressway 83 in Harlingen, staff is already preparing for the tax-free emergency supplies weekend. From left are Art Ravize and Cruz Balderas, assistant managers, and Bo Ortiz, manager. (Rick Kelly | Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — The best preparation for any emergency starts today.

The state tax-free emergency supplies weekend from April 27-29 allows Texans to stock up on items ranging from fire extinguishers to generators to first-aid kits and more.

The primary idea behind the weekend, at least here in the Valley, is driven by the looming advent of hurricane season which begins June 1.

Texas is one of five states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Virginia are the others — which have sales tax holidays for emergency supplies. It is no coincidence that all are coastal states at risk from hurricanes.

Yet the tax-free deal also allows the foresighted among us the opportunity to stock up on non-perishable items with a long shelf life, items such as batteries of all sizes, gas cans, generators, coolers and more.

“It serves as almost like a guideline of what materials, what products, you should have at your home at any given time, really,” said Bo Ortiz, manager of McCoy’s Building Supply at 3661 W. Expressway 83. “You don’t have to wait for hurricane season — you want to have these products there at all times.

“You never know when we’re going to get a storm and it blows down some power poles and you’re out of power for a day or two before they get it back up, so generators come in handy,” he added.

Big items, small items

The biggest ticket item available for tax-free purchase is a portable generator, so long as you can get it out the door for under $3,000.

“We have a 5,500-watt generator that falls under the criteria,” Ortiz said. “If it’s not going to be used immediately, two things are recommended. Either put the additive inside the fuel so it won’t gel up on you or anything like that, or if it’s not run for a few months, turn it on occasionally to make sure everything is working.”

For most people, everyday items with a long shelf life make tax-free weekend a time for savings.

“Other items that people come in looking for are tarps,” Ortiz said. “They do want to have gas tanks, definitely maybe some sort of ice chest. When you’re out of power and you have an opportunity to get ice before, you do want to get some ice chests and you do want to have extra gas cans available, some ropes or tie-downs, depending on what the situation might be.

“First-aid kits, for sure,” he added, “and flashlights, some portable radios and fire extinguishers. Give yours a check on the expiration dates because they do expire.”

Don’t forget batteries. Even though most flashlights and emergency radios generally operate on “D” and “C” type batteries, the commonly used “AA” and “AAA” batteries used in television remotes and so many other daily devices also are tax-free.

“I’m not sure, but give or take, maybe about five years is the lifespan of the batteries,” Ortiz said. “It’s also recommended not to leave the batteries inside, whether it’s a flashlight or radio. Don’t leave them in there because they’ll oxidize and start corroding, and we’ve all seen that happen.”

Are you ready?

Maybe the best thing about tax-free emergency supplies weekend is that it reminds us to check on the state of our own household emergency preparedness.

“It’s a real perfect time to do an assessment, find out what you need, look at your main supplies that you’re going to eventually need,” said Art Ravize, an assistant manager at the McCoy’s store.

Doing that assessment can go a long way in making sure potential headaches are minimized when a weather-related or any emergency occurs.

“I see it happen year-after-year,” Ortiz said. “We wait and we procrastinate, and there we are at the last minute trying to find the necessities that we need to be able to hold up.”

Shipping costs count

The Texas Comptroller’s Office estimates shoppers will save more than $1.6 million in state and local sales taxes during the upcoming tax holiday, which was approved by the Texas Legislature in 2015.

As long as what you’re buying qualifies as being tax-free, there’s no limit on how many items you can buy.

If buying online or even locally, remember that delivery and transportation charges are part of the sales price.

Even if the item qualifies as tax-free, if it goes over the $3,000 limit for generators or the $300 or $75 limit for other items due to shipping charges, the item will be taxed.

For example, if you purchase a rescue ladder for $299 with a $10 delivery charge, the total sales price is $309. Because the total sales price of the ladder is more than $300, tax is due on the $309.

“While we can’t know in advance when the next flood, tornado or hurricane may strike, we can make sure our families, homes and businesses have the supplies they need to face these and other emergencies,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said. “This tax holiday can help Texans save money while stocking up for emergency situations. Don’t wait for disaster to strike. Take the time now to get prepared.”

When does it begin, end?

This year’s tax-free holiday on emergency supplies begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, April 27, and ends at midnight on Monday, April 29.

Qualified tax-free

Less than $3,000

>> Portable generators

Less than $300

>> Emergency ladders

>> Hurricane shutters

Less than $75

>> Axes

>> Batteries, single or multipack (AAA cell, AA cell, C cell, D cell, 6 volt or 9 volt)

>> Can openers — non-electric

>> Carbon monoxide detectors

>> Coolers and ice chests for food storage — non-electric

>> Fire extinguishers

>> First aid kits

>> Fuel containers

>> Ground anchor systems and tie-down kits

>> Hatchets

>> Ice products — reusable and artificial

>> Light sources— portable self-powered (including battery-operated, such as flashlights and lanterns)

>> Mobile telephone batteries and mobile telephone chargers

>> Radios — portable self-powered (including battery-operated, including two-way and weather band radios)

>> Smoke detectors

>> Tarps and other plastic sheeting

Not qualified tax-free

>> Batteries for automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles

>> Camping stoves

>> Camping supplies

>> Chain saws

>> Plywood

>> Extension ladders

>> Stepladders

>> Tents

>> Repair or replacement parts for emergency preparation supplies

>> Services performed on, or related to, emergency preparation supplies

For information in tax-free items, call (800) 252-5555 or got online to

Source: Texas State Comptroller