Florida lawmakers push to tax online purchases

4:39 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - Legislation is moving ahead at the state Capitol that would require Internet retailers to collect sales taxes for your online purchases.

On Tuesday, a Senate committee passed a bill that would require out-of-state Internet retailers to collect sales taxes. Currently, online retailers like Amazon do not collect sales taxes in Florida because they don't have a physical location in the state.

Florida retailers say that puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Even if stores charge the same price as Amazon, the charge ends up 6 or 7 percent more because of sales taxes.

Sen. Nancy Detert is sponsoring a bill that eliminates that advantage for Internet-only retailers.

The idea has been around for more than a decade, but lawmakers have shied away from it because some called it a tax hike. Collecting online sales taxes would raise at least an extra $400 million for the state.

Detert says her bill is cash-neutral. She says it would take the extra sales tax collections and return the cash to businesses and consumers.

"The world has changed and it really is e-fairness. It's tax reform. It's just new, new, new. We have to look at things in a whole new way and I think we've come up with a perfect blend to have a different kind of tax and then have that money generated back to job creation."

Retailers say shopping has changed and now people often go to stores to check out a product, but then buy it online to save the sales tax.

Randy Miller of the Florida Retail Federation says brick-and-mortar retailers can't compete.

"They are not being able to compete with the big guy because they can give them an automatic six to seven-and-a-half percent discount just on tax. If they match the price, they still cannot compete."

Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida encouraged lawmakers to focus on fair tax policy.

"Creating a level playing field not only helps Florida's employers. More importantly it protects employees, those employees that bring paychecks home to support their families."

The bill still must pass votes in three more committees before it can get to the Senate floor for debate.

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