20100902 hurricaneearlprep 35
Don Jones (L) and Steve Vance install a sheet of plywood over a window of a beach house to protect it from the winds of the approaching Hurricane Earl in Buxton, N.C. - 

Jeremy Hobson: Well here in this country, Wednesday is the official start of hurricane season. And the state of Virginia is offering a financial incentive for residents who prepare for natural disasters.

Virginia is giving people a tax-break on certain essential goods. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.

Jeff Tyler: Virginia consumers have until midnight Tuesday to buy flashlights, generators, blue ice, carbon monoxide detectors and storm shutters without paying the normal 5 percent sales tax.

But that deal doesn't apply to plywood.

Joel Davison: That didn't make the cut, because every contractor in the state is going to be out there and saving money and stocking up on plywood.

Joel Davison is spokesman for the Virginia Department of Taxation. It drew the line in terms of what qualified as hurricane preparation.

Davison: Others have said, 'Well, if a big storm's coming, I need alcohol. So alcohol should be covered.' But, it's not.

The tax spokesman says the state will lose revenue. But:

Davison: Consumers save a little over $2.5 million during this weeklong holiday.

Many states have sales tax holidays. Mark Robyn is an economist with the Tax Foundation.

Mark Robyn: I think the research shows that there's no real economic benefit. It just seems kind of like a gimmick.

But Robyn says tax holidays are popular with consumers -- hence popular with politicians. Virginians will get another sales tax moratorium in late summer for back-to-school shopping.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace