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Florida Tax-Free Admissions? Sales Tax Holiday: Freedom Week!


Between all the excitement of BBQs and fireworks during the 4th of July holiday, don’t miss out on Florida’s newest sales tax holiday, known as “Freedom Week.” From July 1, 2021, through July 7th, 2021, a variety of fun stuff will exempt from Florida sales tax. But while Florida residents (and our beloved tourists!) rush to enjoy the savings on their favorite summer items, Florida businesses will unquestionably be frustrated in implementing the various exemptions. Movie theaters, concert venues, fitness facilities are others will be especially affected as the exemption applies to events held all the way through December 31, 2021!

House Bill 7061, Taxation, which was sponsored in the Senate by Ana Maria Rodriguez of Miami, includes certain events within the list of items exempted from sales and use tax during Florida’s Freedom Week Holiday. Specifically, the 2021 Freedom Week Sales Tax Holiday exempts purchases of admissions to: music events, sporting events, cultural events, specified performances, movies, museums, state park annual passes, and fitness facilities for events held from July 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021. The broad list of exemptions means there will be a broad list of affected taxpayers, such as: concert venues, movie theaters, sports stadiums, museums, gyms and more!

After being one of the hardest hit industries in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, the entertainment industry will now be hit with the burden of properly administering these exemptions. Unfortunately, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place if they fail to do this perfectly. On one hand, customers will be furious if they do not get their sales tax exemption during the one-week period. On the other hand, if businesses over-apply the exemption either though a POS system error or by human error, it can result in an assessment of tax down the line.

Back to the Basics: Florida’s Sales Tax on Admissions

The average business owner knows that sales tax is owed on tangible items. As things like concert tickets have moved from being physical tickets sent in the mail, to paper tickets printed at home, to finally QR codes downloaded to our phones, some Florida taxpayers have made the mistake of thinking that admissions have their taxable element and left these transactions exempt. However, Florida’s imposition of sales tax on admissions is separate and distinct from Florida’s imposition of sales tax on tangible personal property.

Section 212.05, Fla. Stat. is the most commonly cited sales tax statute because it is where Florida imposes sales and use tax on all retail sales of tangible personal property in this state subject to specific exemptions. However, admissions were never taxable under section 212.05, Fla. Stat. Resultingly, the assumption that these items became nontaxable once they moved from tangible paper to digital QR codes is (and always has been) false. Rather, section 212.04, Fla. Stat. directly imposes sales tax on admissions. Specifically, section 212.04(1)(a), Fla. Stat. provides it to be the legislative intent that every person is exercising a taxable privilege who sells or receives anything of value by way of admissions.

Section 212.04(1)(b), Fla. Stat. imposes a 6 percent tax on the sales price of such transactions, but do not be confused and think all the same rules apply with admissions as they do with sales of tangible personal property. Notoriously, Florida’s sales tax on admissions does not provide a mechanism to exempt sales of admissions for resale. Rather, resellers of admissions must pay sales tax on their initial purchase of tickets, charge sales tax on their resale price of admissions, and take a credit on their sales tax returns for the sales tax on their initial purchase price of the admissions. Alternatively, they may file for refund. However, every time an admission is sold, tax must be charged and collected.

Certain admissions are always exempt pursuant to section 212, Fla. Stat. For example, admissions to the National Football League championship game or Pro Bowl are exempt, as are all-star games hosted by the MLB, MLS, NBA, or NHS. Florida is serious about hosting top-tier sports events, and receiving all the associated benefits, here in our state. Other exemptions include live theater sponsored by a 501(c)(3) exempt entity and school sporting events.

Freedom Week’s Tax-Free Admissions

The difference between the exemptions provided in section 212.04, Fla. Stat. and those provided in House Bill 7061, of course, is that the exemptions provided in House Bill 7061 are only for one week. What could go wrong in one week? Here at MSD, we can see a lot going wrong for the entertainment industry:

  1. Applying the exemption to the wrong events

The Freedom Week tax exemption applies to music events, sporting events, cultural events, specified performances, movies, museums, state park annual passes, and fitness facilities for events held from July 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021. While we all know what a sporting event is, some of these other categories offer room for interpretation. For example, what exactly is a cultural event? If a nightclub charges a $20 admission on reggae night, would that be considered a cultural event? What is the nightclub only plays reggae music in the beginning of the night and then defaults to house music later in the evening? At what point is the admission no longer for a cultural event, if it ever even was? Perhaps even more ambiguous is the “fitness facility.” Would a golf course be considered a fitness facility? A bowling alley?

  1. Applying the exemption to the right events at the wrong time

You have adjusted your POS to exempt admissions starting July 1st. It is obvious that you should not forget to begin taxing these items again on July 8th. However, exempt admissions must be “held” before the last day of 2021. What happens if you purchase tickets to a concert set to be held September 22nd, 2021, and that concert is subsequently postponed to February 2022? Will concert venues need to track down their customers and ask for sales tax then? Alternatively, who wants to be on the receiving end of an audit that assesses you for those sales and find yourself in the position that you have to prove which tickets were purchased when, and at what date the concert was supposed to be held at the time those tickets were purchased?

It also seems pretty clear that if someone goes to a cycling class on July 6, 2021, and purchases one class, they should not pay sales tax on that purchase. However, what happens if a customer comes in on July 6, 2021, and purchases a one-year unlimited pass to attend as many cycling classes as they want? The pass would be purchased within the applicable period, but the classes it applies for would be “held” over the course of July 6, 2021, through July 5, 2022. Is the purchase of the pass exempt from sales tax then? Alternatively, what is you purchase a 10-class pass which is valid for one year but will likely be used up in few months? As you can see from these hypotheticals, there are many gray areas in the exemption which business owners may find themselves having to defend down the line.

  1. Keeping the right records

In a Florida sales tax audit, the Department of Revenue has the obligation to prove additional tax is due. However, when it comes to an exemption, the burden of approving that it was properly taken falls on the taxpayer. It is very common for Department of Revenue auditors to “disallow” all exemptions in the first round of audit. This means that they will assess tax on every single exempt sale you made, issue you an assessment, and then put it on you to come back with the right documentation to prove that you properly exempted the transaction. If your records are not perfect, expect the auditor to assess the tax.

To be prepared for a future audit, make sure you have records which: (1) prove the transaction occurred within the applicable period; (2) that the event was a qualifying event (good luck with Reggae night!); (3) that you did not, in fact, collect the tax. The third point may seem obvious, but it is unfortunately not uncommon for taxpayers in dire financial positions to keep the sales tax they collect to keep their business afloat. After almost no events for over a year, it is likely many businesses in the entertainment industry are still suffering and some may be tempted to keep that tax money illegally.

Florida’s Freedom Week offers an excellent opportunity for Florida residents to save a little money while they venture out of their homes after a long pandemic and finally attend some fun events. But what is fun for customers will likely be a nightmare for admissions sellers. A careful application of this exemption is key!

undefinedJeanette Moffa is an attorney in the Fort Lauderdale office of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. She focuses her practice in Florida state and local tax, with an emphasis on sales and use tax. Jeanette provides SALT planning and consulting as part of her practice, addressing issues such as nexus and taxability, including exemptions, inclusions, and exclusions of transactions from the tax base. In addition, she handles tax controversy, working with state and local agencies in resolution of assessment and refund cases. You can learn more about Jeanette HERE.

At the Law Office of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, PA, our primary practice area is Florida taxes, with a very heavy emphasis in Florida sales and use tax. We have defended Florida businesses against the Florida Department of Revenue since 1991 and have over 100 years of cumulative sales tax experience within our firm. Our partners are both CPAs/Accountants and Attorneys, so we understand both the accounting side of the situation as well as the legal side. We represent taxpayers and business owners from the entire state of Florida. Call our offices today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION to confidentially discuss how we can help put this nightmare behind you.


House Bill 7061

Section 212.04, Fla. Stat.


Florida Sales Tax Exemption on Admissions for Resale, By Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A., December 14, 2017

FL Governor Signs Economic Nexus Legislation, by James Sutton, CPA, Esq., April 20, 2021

Florida Sales and Use Tax: ESCAPE ROOMS, by Paula Savchenko, Esq., March 05, 2019

Florida Sales and Use Tax Audits, by Steve Middel, September 21, 2020

FL Sales and Use Tax Audits – Audit Notices Are Coming, by Matthew Parker, Esq., September 15, 2020