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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate advances measure to make it easier to collect sales tax from Internet sales



Armed with their own Facebook, Twitter and even political phone apps, Florida legislators are caving to the realities of the Internet. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 5-1 to allow Florida to join with 20 other states in a compact that will make it easier for businesses to impose Florida sales tax on goods sold to Floridians online.

 "This is not intended to increase any taxes on anyone,'' said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, sponsor of the bill.

Senate analysts said the impact on state revenues is undetermined, but a previous forecast by state economists predicted it would result in $40 million in additional revenue A provision in the bill would require the state to reduce money the state sends to local governments to offset the increase in taxes.

Randy Miller of the Florida Retail Federation, which has sought the legislation for the last decade, said his organization's analysis shows that the state is losing as much as $1 billion a year in lost sales taxes. He said Florida retailers are "becoming nothing more than showrooms" with the explosion of new phone apps that allows consumers to take a picture of a product in a retail store, order it online and have it shipped to their home without paying any tax.

"That is killing us,'' he said. "We've got to do something to solve it."

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, was the lone vote against the bill. "I have a lot of constituents that do a lot of online shopping because there is that savings,'' she said. "The market is starting to change. Retailers who we support need to change."

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, countered that while legislators cut tax breaks for corporations they shouldn't be "punishing people who come to the State of Florida and pay property taxes,'' she said. "Who do you go to when you have a charity? Somebody on the Internet? I just say let's level the playing field. It's fair."

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 12:05pm]


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