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Politics

Latest eFairness Effort Moving Again in Senate

February 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

Out-of-state online giants will have to start imposing sales tax on purchases made by Floridians under a bill backed by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

But dont call Senate Bill 316 a new tax. And dont expect the bill that has been introduced numerous times in the past decade to have smooth surfing into law, despite support by major business-advocates including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida which view the bill as an equalizer for brick and mortar shop owners in Florida.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, considers the revenue neutral bill tax reform or a tax exchange as consumers would see the fiscal hit offset by Gov. Rick Scotts proposed cuts to manufacturing sales taxes and a reduction in communications service taxes on satellite TV.

Its an existing tax, Detert said. The newness is who is going to collect it. Right now the individual is supposed to self-tax, but that tax is supposed to be paid either way.

Florida's retailers who have Internet sales already collect the Florida sales tax on their websites, putting them at a disadvantage to out-of-state businesses that dont.

The bill also proposes the state Department of Revenue monitor the revenue generated if the tax is approved, estimated between $400 million and $800 million a year, to seek other reductions to keep the hike revenue neutral to Floridians.

Scott said Tuesday the state needs to make smart choices -- which includes his proposal to cut sales taxes on manufacturers -- but hes yet to see the bill.

What I care about is that we have fair taxes; I do not want to raise taxes for Florida families, Scott said.

The Internet sales tax bill has been presented to the Legislature since the late 1990s, when the states coffers were flush and the proposal was deemed an unneeded tax increase.

Detert is optimistic the bill will finally advance through the Legislature.

The big selling point to that bill this year is having the proportion going to consumers through the communications tax, Detert said after the hearing.

Its probably something that should have been done a decade ago when the economy changed, so the economy changed and we have to change, the way we tax people has to change.

Detert said it is too early to determine to consider as offsetting revenue any sales tax exemptions as have been proposed for online giant Amazon to set up distribution facilities in Florida.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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