Home Business As gas tax holiday ends, did Florida drivers save?

As gas tax holiday ends, did Florida drivers save?

As gas tax holiday ends, did Florida drivers save?

Florida reinstituted its per-gallon tspanx on gspansoline sspanles today after a monthlong reprieve in October implemented by Gov. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers.

The sspanvings from the 25.3-cent break on each gallon of gasoline last month appears to have been less obviously impactful to drivers, thanks to another sharp rise in oil prices at the start of October. But other factors were at play, including when fuel stations purchased the gasoline.

Gspans prices, with the tspanx suspension factored in, fell across Florida by about 10 cents the day after the tax holiday went into effect on Oct. 1and it took five days from the start of the month for the average price of a gallon of regular gas in Florida to drop 20 cents, according to a Palm Beach Post analysis of data from the American Automobile Association and tech company GasBuddy.

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Motorists fueling up on Oct. 5, for example, saw the month’s lowest average cost, about $3.17 a gallon, before the average cost then shot back up and even surpassed the cost on Sept. 30, to roughly $3.37. 

So the tax savings were often difficult to factor in for most people fueling up at the gas station.

“That’s hard for consumers to parse out. They only have the pump to look at,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, of seeing the impacts of a gas-tax holiday. “What consumers see is not the totality of the story.”

The top average price in the Sunshine State hit $3.40 around the second week of October, a few days after a group of oil-producing countries, known as OPEC+, decided to slow production by 2 million barrels per day. The average gallon of gas in the United States hit its peak at the same time, increasing by 12 cents from the start of the month. 

In the first two weeks of October, average U.S. gas prices had overall increased by 11 cents, while average Florida gas prices had increased by 2 cents. Yet it was tough to compare Florida’s market with that of any other state because of a practice called “price cycling,” where prices typically ebb and flow on a schedule.

In addition, Florida is a heavy commuter state with more drive-to, and drive-through, tourism than most other states, so there is greater pressure on fuel prices.

Still, the gas tax holiday “cushioned the blow” from price increases, De Haan said. Had it not been in place, motorists would have paid even higher prices.

The good news as the fuel sales tax is re-imposed is that gasoline prices statewide are dropping again, according to  AAA—The Auto Club Group. In the past week, the state average fell 7 cents to $3.29 a gallon, the group said Monday.

AAA calculated the average price for gasoline in Florida for the month of October at $3.33 per gallon, which is about 6 cents less than the price on Sept. 30.

A Marathon gas station in West Palm Beach on October 6, 2022. OPEC oil-producing countries plan to reduce production which will drive gas prices higher.

Timing of gas station fuel purchases, deliveries critical

Another factor into the timing of the tax relief for consumers is when gas stations bought their fuel.

It’s against the law for a “terminal supplier, wholesaler, importer, reseller or retail dealer of motor fuel” to reap the benefits of the tax holiday or not give this benefit to the consumer, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. But that’s only if the gas station bought gas from its supplier at the discounted price.

“Gas stations that do not purchase tax-reduced gas from their suppliers would not be required to pass on a tax reduction to their customers during the Gas Tax Holiday,” the attorney general’s website stated. Gas stations are also not required to sell gas at a certain price, nor are they considered price gouging if their prices don’t go down.

If a gas station bought its supply before the tax holiday went into effect, it would continue to sell that gas with the tax until it runs out, said Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association. And if gas stations still have tax-reduced inventory after Nov. 1, the gas should be sold without the tax until it’s gone.

Bowman said consumers are saving about $7 million a day in taxes.

“Any time the state can give money directly back to the consumer, it’s a good thing,” he said.

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Is the gas tax break as beneficial as those on storm, school supplies?

Gas tax holidays aren’t as beneficial as others, like sales tax holidays, when big-ticket qualifying items such as computers or generators can return more pronounced savings, said Deanne Butchey, a professor in Florida International University’s Department of Finance.

Drivers getting fuel during these tax breaks are saving between $2.50 and $50 per fill-up, she said.

“One does not usually fill up one’s tank multiple times over a short period of time. So the financial impact on the consumer is negligible, even though it may be a good ploy politically,” she said.

The bottom 95% of families will benefit from less than half of the tax break, an analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy suggested, with low-income drivers not able to time the purchase of their gas like other drivers might.

“They’re just a really inefficient way to use public funds, especially if you’re trying to improve the lives of folks who are being hit hardest by things like temporary gas increases or the cost of inflation rising,” said ITEP state policy analyst Marco Guzman, adding that other solutions like earned income tax credits or rebates could be more beneficial.

Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida Taxwatch, a group that was supportive of the gas tax holiday, also noted that even though the price of gas fluctuated, “any savings is still just that: savings.”

“And during a time of record inflation, when a large area of our state is still reeling from Hurricane Ian, the gas tax reduction helped ease the burden on our pocketbooks and provided some much-needed financial — and emotional — relief,” he said in a statement.

Still, if possible, drivers should have tried to fuel up by Monday, the last day of the gas tax holiday. Gas prices may not automatically get a 25-cent increase immediately, but it could be a shock to consumers if the reinstated gas tax is coupled with more chaos in the oil sector.

The average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Florida on Friday was $3.31, according to AAA. In the West Palm Beach metro area, that average is $3.49.

“Any little bit counts,” Butchey added.


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