Sunday, December 10, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Sales tax fairness for Florida

Here's a New Year's resolution for the Florida Legislature: Finally stand up for tax fairness. Monday's U.S. Supreme Court's decision reaffirms that state lawmakers have been shirking their duty in failing to push more Internet companies to collect and remit sales taxes. State leaders should stop treating Internet commerce like a research-and-development project and start demanding it support the communities that allow it to thrive.

The Supreme Court declined to consider a challenge to a New York law aimed at getting at least some Internet sellers to collect and remit sales tax. While a victory for fairness, it falls short of the real fix needed to address the disparity between Internet retailers and their brick-and-mortar competitors. Congress should update federal interstate commerce laws so that all Internet sales are taxed based on the customer's location.

The U.S. Senate earlier this year approved just such a solution for companies with revenue of $1 million or more. But the U.S. House Republican leadership has kept the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 bottled up under the flawed claim that it would increase taxes — the same excuse obstructionists in Tallahassee have given. What they are really doing is protecting a politically active commercial sector at the expense of traditional retailers, their communities and fairness.

Local merchants who hire local employees are at a price disadvantage because they must collect sales tax while their online competitors do not. The status quo also increases tax inequity because traditional shoppers — some of whom may not even have Internet access — pay a disproportionate share of the tax burden to keep schools open, police paid and prisons functioning. And it belies the fact that Internet sellers rely on public infrastructure and sound communities for their marketplace. In Florida, the lost sales tax revenue from e-commerce is estimated at $454 million annually and rising.

In recent years, New York and several other fair-minded states — fed up with Congress' inaction — sought at least a partial remedy. They passed laws that defined Internet sellers that pay an in-state affiliate to refer customers to them as in-state businesses. Thus, they are required to collect and remit sales taxes. Both Amazon.com and Overstock.com challenged New York's law but lost at both the trial and appellate level. On the same day as the online shopping campaign that's become known as Cyber Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case.

For one of the biggest Internet purveyors, Amazon.com, the inaction in Florida is now largely moot. The Internet giant is building two fulfilment centers in Hillsborough and Polk counties and will have to start collecting sales taxes from Florida residents when they open. But that's doesn't let Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, Senate President Don Gaetz and their colleagues off the hook for continuing a policy that still favors carpetbaggers over Florida businesses and their customers. Sound tax policy is when any retailer selling to a Florida resident shares the same burden for collecting and remitting sales tax. Online or around the corner.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trump’s risky move

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough County’s Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasn’t enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, it’s looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the city’s dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17