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Lawmakers Give First Approval to Internet Sales Tax Collection

October 15th, 2019 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida is losing $700 million a year it is already owed on internet sales.

State lawmakers took the first step to begin collecting the money, passing the bill through its first committee Tuesday, but there are concerns over who will benefit from the collections.

A 2018 US Supreme Court decision cleared the way for states to start collecting taxes from vendors who make internet sales made into their state.

43 of 45 states with a sales tax jumped on the idea.

“Only us and Missouri. We are falling behind the times and its not fair for anyone in our state,” said Senator Joe Grutuers who is sponsoring the Senate bill.

In Florida the payment remains voluntary.

Purchasers must fill out a form and submit a check.

Fewer than 5,000 forms are filed each year.

Retail giant Walmart urged support for the measure.

So did the Florida Conservation Voters.

“We many unmet needs in terms of conservation initiatives, protecting our precious water quality,” said Lindsey Cross with FCV.

Earlier this year it was the Governor who killed the idea because he thought it looked too much like a tax increase, but sponsors have been working on him ever since.

The sponsor and business groups would like to see the $700 million that would be collected go to tax reductions on business rents.

“And I thing we should continue working on eliminating the commercial rent tax,” said Gruters.

The cash is enough to pay for a teacher raises pushed by the Governor, but the AFL-CIO is worried the people who pay the tax won’t benefit.

“If we take $700 million from working families that buy things online and turn around and give it to folks, who quite frankly, don’t need a tax cut, That would be really bad for Florida,” said Rich Templin with the AFL-CIO.

The legislation contains an exemption for out of state retailers.

If they sell less than one hundred products or have sales less than $200,000 annually, they do not have to collect Florida sales tax.

As lawmakers sort things out, buyers should beware.

The Department of Revenue has audited some people who failed to report small internet purchases, which is a first for the tax collectors.

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