It's as unlikely as a headline that reads: Man bites dog. But here it is: Florida's Legislature has an antibusiness bias. How else, in a state with a 12.3 percent unemployment rate, can you explain a tax policy that ultimately gives a competitive advantage to out-of-state, online retailers over homegrown shops that employ Floridians?
The issue is the state's antiquated sales tax that fails to collect taxes from many Internet retailers — such as Amazon.com — that sell goods to Florida residents but have no bricks-and-mortar presence in the state. Florida could join a multistate compact, called the Streamline Sales and Use Tax Agreement, to move toward changing that. But leaders of the 2010 Legislature, like many before them, appear unlikely to do so to avoid any backlash in an election year that they "raised" taxes.
Collecting the sales tax on goods sold to Floridians isn't raising taxes. It's about enforcing them fairly so all Floridians contribute to the state's revenue. It's also about leveling the playing field for Florida retailers who face unfair competition from online retailers who don't charge Florida customers state and local sales taxes.
For nearly a decade, Florida TaxWatch, the business-backed watchdog group, and the Florida Retail Federation have made the same argument in Tallahassee to little avail. TaxWatch argues there is even a way to implement the change so that no new revenue is raised, if that's truly what is bothering antitax lawmakers. Regardless, the current system is unfair to Florida businesses. Legislative leaders could change that.