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Amazon Effort to Build in Florida Crumbles

May 16, 2013 - 6:00pm

A plan by Internet retailing giant to build at least one warehouse in Florida has been scrapped, with the company unable to reach an agreement on when it would have to start collecting state sales taxes, an official in Gov. Rick Scott's office said Thursday.

Scott administration officials declined to offer many details of the scuttled proposal, including where the facility would have been and how many jobs it might have meant had a deal been worked out.

"Amazon officials discussed building a facility in the state by the end of 2015 if the Department of Revenue could reach agreement on their sales tax collections," Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said. "We were not able to reach an agreement in those discussions."

Currently, Amazon doesn't collect Florida sales taxes from state residents who make purchases through the site, but it would likely have to do so if it were to have a physical presence in the state, such as a warehouse.

In January 2012, officials in the governor's office said in published reports that they were "aware" of a desire by Amazon to put warehouses in the state, creating as many as 3,000 jobs, in exchange for a two-year exemption from collecting state sales taxes.

In a statement issued Thursday, Sellers implied that if the Internet company were to locate in Florida and begin collecting taxes, that would amount to a tax increase on Florida residents who use the popular shopping portal. And she said the company could still decide to build here, anyway.

"Governor Scott does not want to raise taxes in Florida, and we are confident Amazon will invest in our state because of our low-tax, pro-business jobs climate," Sellers said.

Brick-and-mortar retailers in Florida had initially opposed the Amazon proposal. They've long complained that Internet retailers get an unfair advantage.

Officials from Seattle-based Amazon didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday from the News Service of Florida.

Under Scott's direction, state economic development officials have pushed hard for a number of companies to open facilities in the state in exchange for tax breaks and other incentives.

Most recently, state and local officials in Southwest Florida lured car rental company Hertz to move its headquarters from New Jersey to Estero. The state has touted what could be a more than $80 million incentive package for Hertz as a good deal because it will create 700 jobs, although many of those will be filled with the company's current employees who would move from other states.

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