Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Editorial: Taxpayer giveaway for Amazon

Published Jun. 14, 2013

The state and Hillsborough County are poised to reward an out-of-state corporate giant that has avoided collecting Florida sales tax for more than a decade by offering it millions in tax incentives to finally hire Floridians and contribute to the state's economy. Gov. Rick Scott tried to sell his tentative agreement with Amazon on Thursday as another sign that he is improving Florida's economy. Don't be fooled. Amazon is once again getting just what it wants — access to the Florida market at less cost than competitors who have been here for decades.

Under the deal outlined by Scott, Amazon would spend about $300 million building one or more distribution centers in the state and employing 3,000 Floridians. One potential site would include 1,000 jobs at a warehouse in Ruskin in Hillsborough County. And the company could no longer benefit from a federal loophole to justify failing to collect sales taxes from Florida customers. It would have to collect sales taxes in Florida once it opened its first warehouse here, no later than 2016.

If the negotiations had stopped there, it would have meant the state had finally leveled the playing field for the state's traditional merchants against at least one major Internet competitor. Growing e-commerce sales have cost the state an estimated $450 million annually in lost revenue, shifting the cost of state and local government disproportionately onto customers who support Florida retailers.

But the state's deal with Amazon doesn't stop there. Hillsborough County commissioners are expected to consider next week whether to grant Amazon $6.6 million in taxpayer incentives to locate there. And Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency, is working with other communities to further sweeten the pot.

Such a traditional pay-them-to-come mentality sells Florida's negotiation position short and is just further evidence how Republican leaders' antitax posture has undercut the state's leverage and made taxes less fair. Just last month, Scott said he had walked away from talks with Amazon and claimed that taxing the online sale of a book to a Florida customer — just as it's taxed in a Florida bookstore — was somehow a tax increase.

Amazon needs facilities in the nation's fourth largest state as it moves to a business model focused on quicker delivery. Earlier this month, for example, Tampa Bay Times' Bob Trigaux wrote about how the online merchant was exploring grocery delivery. It can't do that in Florida without building facilities here, which would also require collecting sales tax.

Amazon has accepted that the political winds have shifted on taxing e-commerce. The company now collects sales tax in nine states — including California, New York and Texas — and will do so in the near future in several others, including Virginia and New Jersey. It is also supporting the Main Street Fairness Act. Approved by the U.S. Senate in May, it would require all online merchants with $1 million or more in annual revenue to collect sales taxes.

Yet in Florida, shortsighted Republican leaders have failed to consider how to modernize a tax system so heavily dependent on sales tax revenue. Scott may have struck a deal that could bring 3,000 jobs, but he did it on the backs of taxpayers. Amazon, once again, is the big winner.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Howard Frankland Bridge, which connects St. Petersburg and Tampa, is a leading symbol of regional unity.
    Organizations that rebrand themselves should have a regional mission that reflects the name.
  2. The White House says it has chosen President Donald Trump's golf resort in Miami as the site for next year's Group of Seven summit.  (AP Photo/Alex Sanz, File) ALEX SANZ  |  AP
    Monday’s letters to the editor
  3. Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o has written a children's book called Sulwe, about a girl who "was born the color of midnight."[Photo (2014) by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP] File photo
    Most white people have never heard of skin lightening cream or the “paper bag test,” where your fiance can be no darker than a paper sack. | Leonard Pitts Jr.
  4. Ayana Lage, 26, and Vagner Lage, 27, pose with a sonogram of their unborn child. Ayana writes openly about going through a miscarriage due to the baby having a rare genetic defect. She wonders why more women don't discuss their miscarriages. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Sunday’s letters to the editor
  5. Kreshae Humphrey, 26, applies ointments to the skin of her 3-year-old daughter, Nevaeh Soto De Jesus, after bathing her in bottled water. The parents bathe all three of their girls with bottled water because they believe the children were sickened by the tap water at the Southern Comfort mobile home park off U.S. 19 in Clearwater. The family is suing the park's owner over the issue, but the owner and the state say there are no problems with the drinking water there. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The story of a Clearwater mobile home park and its water issues reflects a systemic breakdown.
  6. A long stretch of US 98 remains closed for repairs in Mexico Beach on Friday, September 27, 2019, almost one year after Hurricane Michael made landfall in the small coastal town. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Time is running out, so let’s get practical, says Craig Fugate
  7. FROM PRINT: Adam Goodman, national Republican media consultant
    Sure, fix capitalism’s flaws, but a wealth tax is not the way. | Adam Goodman
  8. 
 CLAY BENNETT  |  Chattanooga Times Free Press
  9. A view of the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and waterfront from over Tampa Bay.
    The news that the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation wants to change its name to include “Tampa Bay” has been met with resistance.
  10. Catherine Rampell, Washington Post columnist.
    Allegations of political cowardice can seem rich coming from candidates unwilling to acknowledge the obvious truths about things such as higher taxes. | Catherine Rampell
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement