Monday, August 20, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact Florida: Rick Scott was right about Florida's unique tax on business leases

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the legislative session by touting an economic agenda chock-full of tax cuts to benefit businesses.

Scott took aim at the state's "unfair" tax on corporate leases in his State of the State address Tuesday, citing David Alfandary, whose factory in Miami produces Colombian baked goods, as an example of a businessman who could prosper without it.

"David has said that he is very proud to grow his business in Florida, and if we cut this unfair tax, he could grow his business even more," Scott said. "Florida is now the only state in the nation to tax commercial leases."

Florida does levy a 6 percent sales tax on the total rent paid for any commercial property, including storefronts, offices and warehouses. Other municipalities have similar laws, but not one is as comprehensive as Florida's.

We rated Scott's statement True.

A 2014 research memorandum from the Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability concluded that Florida is the only state that imposes a sales tax on commercial real estate leases.

Researchers found similar laws in New York City, Arizona, Hawaii and New Mexico, but they didn't go as far.

For example, New York City imposes a 6 percent tax on commercial real estate leases, but it only applies to companies that pay at least $250,000 in rent every year. Hawaii imposes a 4 percent general excise tax on income, which can include income from leases.

National experts, including from the Tax Policy Center, said to the best of their knowledge Scott was correct.

So did Carla Markowitz, an attorney who specializes in Florida commercial landlord representation speaking on behalf of the Building Owners and Managers Association.

House Democrat criticizes teacher pay

Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, offered the response to Scott's speech on behalf of House Democrats.

If Republican leaders want to attract the good-paying jobs that Scott talked about, Cruz said they should start with well-funded public schools.

"It is embarrassing, and I am ashamed, that Florida pays our teachers $10,000 a year less than the national average," said the House Democratic leader.

Cruz's figure is slightly off, so we rated it Mostly True.

A spokesman for Cruz said she got the figure from the U.S. News and World Report Best Jobs of 2017 rankings. The report showed the median salary for a U.S. high school teacher was $57,200 in 2015. Florida Department of Education data show the average salary for a teacher in Florida was $48,179, as of April.

That difference: about $9,021.

We checked another source, with similar results.

The National Education Association, a labor union, collects data from state education departments showing average classroom teacher pay in each state. The most recent numbers from fall 2016 show Florida's teacher salary at $49,199 and the national average at $58,353 — a difference of about $9,154.

Within a state, the pay and cost of living can vary among school districts depending on if they're small rural towns, urban centers or wealthy beachfront communities. Discrepancies in benefits, such as health insurance, can also make a difference in take-home pay as well.

Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said each school district negotiates salaries of their instructional and classroom staff locally. Additionally, she pointed out that Florida has no state income tax — though income tax is only one piece of someone's tax bill.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com/Florida

 
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