Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: U.S. Senate should pass bill to collect sales tax on Internet sales

It looks like Congress rather than the Florida Legislature finally could be the one to stand up for the state's jobs and residents and modernize the sales tax system to include more Internet purchases. It's about time.

As early as this week, the U.S. Senate expects a bipartisan vote on legislation that would require out-of-state Internet retailers to collect state and local sales taxes from customers and remit them. The so-called Marketplace Fairness Act would finally level the playing field between most brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce. President Barack Obama has said he supports the proposal. After the Senate acts, the U.S. House should sign on and send the bill to the president's desk. The nation needs a tax code for state and local governments that better reflects how business is done in the 21st century.

This should not be a hard call for any lawmaker who cares about keeping jobs and dollars in local communities. In Florida and elsewhere, the status quo has benefited carpetbaggers and out-of-state operations over traditional merchants, undermining job creation and unfairly penalizing any resident who does not regularly shop online, most notably the poor.

But the lack of sales tax collection also undermines the government services closest to home — from public schools to public safety. As more commerce has switched to the Internet, economists estimate Florida will lose $454 million next year in sales tax collections — a number that is sure to only grow. Nationally, the total lost sales tax revenue is estimated at $23 billion.

A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Quill Corporation vs. North Dakota, precipitated this mess. The justices ruled a mail-order catalog company didn't have to collect sales tax for out-of-state sales. Three years later, Amazon.com debuted, and by 2000, several states began clamoring for congressional action. It took several major states — including California, Texas and New York — to finally force the issue as Amazon began seeking new distribution centers around the country. Fifteen states now require at least Amazon to collect sales taxes.

EBay, however, has not given up on trying to protect this special-interest loophole. Over the weekend, its CEO argued any congressional action should exempt businesses with less than 50 employees or $10 million in annual sales. That is discriminatory. Ideally, there would be no difference in how the law treats small and large businesses — just as there is no distinction between mom-and-pop traditional stores and their big-box competitors in Florida's sales tax law. If there has to be a loophole to move this issue along, the proposed exemption in the Senate bill, for small online businesses collecting no more than $1 million in revenue annually from remote sales, is more reasonable.

Floridians might have hoped that their own Legislature would be as responsible as those in 15 other states to ensure competitive business practices. But with another session set to adjourn May 3 in Tallahassee without action, Floridians have to look to Washington for a solution. This time, Congress should deliver.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís 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 wonít 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, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís 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: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís 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: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís 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 wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís 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 cityís 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