REGION—Amendments made to the Pennsylvania Tax Code passed in October as part of the state's budget for the upcoming fiscal year allow for Pennsylvania residents to purchase and use consumer fireworks – namely mortars, cakes, firecrackers, roman candles, etc. – without the need to first apply for a municipal permit.
Prior to the law's passage, residents could only purchase “safe and sane” items, namely sparklers, fountains and novelty pyrotechnic devices unless they applied for a special permit from their residing municipality.
Display fireworks – the large, highly explosive kind used in professional displays – are prohibited in consumer retail stores.
According to Thom Hill of North of the Border Fireworks in Hawley, in the 12 years they've operated in the county, there have been very few purchases from PA residents with municipal permits.
A possible reason for this, Hill mused, is the ability of Pennsylvania residents to either cross into a bordering state to purchase fireworks or have a friend from out-of-state do so here.
Sales of consumer fireworks to customers toting out of state licenses are made possible with only a liability waiver, Hill noted.
Now PA residents can do the same from in-state stores.
“For people that really want fireworks in PA, that's good news,” said Hill in support of the new legislation.
“I think it's going to upgrade sales from Pennsylvania residents tremendously,” he said, pointing out that many PA customers felt the old law was unfair.
Along with the more convenient means of purchasing consumer fireworks, sales of the pyrotechnic mechanisms now carry an additional excise tax along with Pennsylvania's six percent sales tax, an effort to generate more revenue for the state.
Reportedly, said firework tax is set at 12 percent. Money accrued from such will be put towards a fund for first responders.
Following the change in legislature, firework retailers needed to renew their sale licenses, distributed by the Department of Agriculture, to come under compliance with the new laws.
Hill noted North of the Border has already done so, even though it had recently renewed its annual license just a few months before the changeover.
The new laws brought an increase in annual license fees along a tiered scale based on store square footage, said Hill.
According to the legislation, firework retailers must operate in stand-alone permanent structures with a separation between storage and retail space.
Additionally, facilities selling fireworks are bound by limitations in proximity to other firework retail spaces, and facilities which sell or dispense gasoline, propane and other flammable substances.
“The main thing for Pennsylvania residents to know is that they can now purchase fireworks without a municipal permit,” said Hill.
According to state law, those wishing to purchase fireworks must be 18 years of age or older and not under the effects of alcohol or other intoxicants.