Emergency Supplies Are Tax-Free April 24-26, So Stock Up Soon To Save Some Cash

Texans can stock up on fire extinguishers, batteries, first aid kits and other emergency supplies tax-free this weekend.
Texans can stock up on fire extinguishers, batteries, first aid kits and other emergency supplies tax-free this weekend. Photo by Schaefer Edwards
February’s god-awful winter storm was a potent reminder that the best time to prepare for a disaster is before it hits. With those memories still fresh in the minds of Texans and with hurricane season only 39 days away, this weekend’s tax holiday on emergency supplies couldn’t have come at a better time.

As the Houston Press warned would-be generator purchasers back in February, Texans can stock up on an assortment of different items tax-free from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday (that's one minute after midnight Friday) through midnight Monday, including batteries, hurricane shutters and certain power generators that’ll come in handy when the next disaster strikes.

There are some caveats and price thresholds to keep in mind, as explained by Texas Comptroller Glenn Hagar’s office in a recent announcement. For example, generators have to be portable and cost less than $3,000. Emergency ladders and hurricane shutters qualify if they cost less than $300, and packs of batteries under $75 can also be bought tax-free from Saturday through Monday.

Here’s the full list of what supplies you can buy tax-free this weekend according to the Texas Comptroller’s office:

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

There’s no limit to how many items in the above list you can buy tax-free this weekend, as long as each individual item’s price tag falls under the appropriate limit. Online purchases also qualify, although then the cost of delivery, shipping and handling gets factored into the cost of each item. For example, if someone buys one $2,999 dollar portable generator online but the shipping costs $15, the total price would be considered $3,014, and since that’s over $3,000, the sales tax wouldn’t be waived.

Unfortunately, the following items don’t qualify for this weekend’s sales tax exemption:

Medical masks and face masks
Cleaning supplies, such as disinfectants and bleach wipes
Gloves, including leather, fabric, latex and types used in healthcare
Toilet paper
Batteries for automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles
Camping stoves
Camping supplies
Extension ladders
Repair or replacement parts for emergency preparation supplies
Services performed on, or related to, emergency preparation supplies

Another notable item not on the state's list is bottled drinking water, but that's because water is already tax-free under Texas law. Other items that are also always sales tax exempt according to the comptroller's office are antibacterial hand sanitizer, soap, cleaning sprays and wipes, as long as those items are labelled with an Food and Drug Administration "Drug Facts" panel.

The Texas Comptroller’s website has more details, including info on how to request a refund if a retailer accidentally charges sales tax on one of these qualifying emergency items.
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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards