Monday, February 19, 2018
Business

Florida Legislature considers pair of bills for online sales tax

TALLAHASSEE — It's a question that tests the Florida Legislature's aversion to new taxes and its pro-business mantra: Should state law require online retailers to pay sales taxes?

On Thursday, state legislators began their push to do just that, moving forward on a pair of proposals that would force online-only companies — and people who buy goods on the Internet — to pay the state's 6 percent sales tax.

The business community strongly supports the measures, saying competition from retailers like Amazon and eBay is putting local companies out of business.

"It's an issue of fairness," said Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. "In our mind, it's not about the taxes collected, it's about the competitive nature of our business."

According to current law, companies that do not have a physical presence in Florida — a store or a warehouse, for example — do not have to collect sales taxes. With a growing number of states pushing so-called "e-fairness" bills, proponents believe this will be the year such a tax law passes.

But the law, in effect, would lead to higher taxes on shoppers, with some estimates putting the cost as high as $1 billion per year, about $50 for every man, woman and child in Florida.

One of the proposals, introduced Thursday in a Senate committee, would offset that tax hike with some sort of consumer tax break. Under that proposal, the Department of Revenue would track the amount of money brought in, and consumers would get a tax break roughly equal to that amount.

"It could be the sales tax holiday, it could be lowering the tax rate, it could be implementing any other tax relief that is decided upon by our state," said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, who is backing the legislation. Gov. Rick Scott has said he would consider an online tax only if it was revenue neutral, meaning it would be offset by tax relief for consumers.

A second bill, passed out of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism on Thursday, does not include a provision for revenue neutrality. Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, the bill's sponsor, also pitched it as a way to level the playing field for local businesses.

To avoid the tax, Amazon is talking to state legislators about spending up to $200 million to build distribution centers in Florida, creating as many as 3,000 jobs. Amazon has said that it will build the centers only if it is given a break on sales taxes until 2014.

The business community has balked at the proposal.

"We just want them to play by the same rules that everyone else plays by," McAllister said.

Comments
St. Petersburg set to rename main library after President Obama

St. Petersburg set to rename main library after President Obama

ST. PETERSBURG — Speaking in front of a small crowd gathered on the front lawn of the city’s main library, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Monday that the facility will get a $6 million renovation and be renamed in honor of President Barack Obama.The a...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

DUNEDIN –– Pinellas sheriff’s detectives spent their weekend luring in unlicensed electrical, plumbing and other home improvement contractors to a vacant home wired with cameras.It took only hours before a stream of people arrived to work on the outd...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA citation for fatal Big Bend accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA citation for fatal Big Bend accident

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co. is formally contesting the biting citation the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration handed down in December for a maintenance incident in June that left five workers dead.At a meeting with the Tampa Bay Tim...
Updated: 8 hours ago
On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

TAMPA — Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart says he’s ready to put his checkbook where his heart is when it comes to supporting a Tampa Bay Rays move to Ybor City.So is the investment fund for the founding family of Ashley Furniture. So, it ap...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Epilogue: Tourism community remembers Paradise founder Cedar Hames

Epilogue: Tourism community remembers Paradise founder Cedar Hames

When Cedar Hames spoke, you listened.He was a natural storyteller, always dressed sharp to match his wit and natural elegance. He grew a two-person business in St. Petersburg into a leading tourism, advertising and marketing agency over an esteemed 3...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Report: Winn-Dixie parent company could close 200 stores

Report: Winn-Dixie parent company could close 200 stores

Bi-Lo LLC, a subsidiary of the same Jacksonville company that owns Winn-Dixie, could file for bankruptcy as soon as next month, according to a Bloomberg report.Parent company Southeastern Grocer is planning to shut down nearly 200 stores either befor...
Updated: 10 hours ago
New bus routes, times to start on Sunday in Hillsborough

New bus routes, times to start on Sunday in Hillsborough

TAMPA — More than a dozen bus routes in Hillsborough County will have new times, paths and stops starting Sunday.The changes come almost four months after the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority rolled out an entirely new bus network, scrapp...
Updated: 10 hours ago
The small gun shop that sold the weapon to the alleged high school shooter ‘closes indefinitely.’

The small gun shop that sold the weapon to the alleged high school shooter ‘closes indefinitely.’

The aftermath of the horrific mass shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has led to the closure of one small business.According to the Miami Herald, the owners of Sunrise Tactical Supply, the Coral Springs, Florida shop that auth...
Published: 02/19/18
Next phase for the Tampa Armature Works: co-working office space

Next phase for the Tampa Armature Works: co-working office space

TAMPA — The mixed-use rebirth of the old Tampa Armature Works warehouse is proceeding in stages. First up: last month’s debut of the new ballroom, followed closely by the opening of more than a dozen vendors in the Heights Public Market food hall.YEA...
Published: 02/19/18

Open-mic night at Pilars is a hot spot for Disney talent

WINTER GARDEN — At the end of the day, when the tourists are gone, Disney performers head out to their favorite spot to keep on singing after their shifts are over. Every Thursday, they perform at open-mic night at Pilars, a Winter Garden martini bar...
Published: 02/18/18