Lawmakers are looking to require nearly all online retailers collect sales tax. But much of the gain would go to other tax breaks.

The retail giant Amazon was one of the first online companies to start collecting sales tax in Florida five years ago.

Now, Florida lawmakers want Amazon’s competitors to catch up.

A potential Senate tax package (Senate Bill 1112) would require nearly all online retailers start collecting Florida sales taxes, netting the state roughly $700 million in revenue it currently doesn’t collect.

But much of the money would be given away by other tax breaks.

Currently, Floridians who buy products from sites like Wayfair, Etsy and Amazon’s third-party sellers usually don’t pay Florida’s 6 percent sales tax. Instead, Floridians are supposed to pay the sales tax directly to the state, which they usually don’t do.

“We’re making our average, everyday citizens guilty of not paying their taxes,” Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who is sponsoring the bill, said Tuesday, before it passed its second committee.

Requiring nearly all online retailers collect the tax would fix the problem. But Gruters, who is also chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, is careful not to call it a tax increase.

“Some people say this is a tax increase,” he told fellow senators on Tuesday. “It’s not. It’s a tax that’s currently owed.”

The idea is in response to a Supreme Court ruling last year that threw out the idea that a company had to have a physical presence in a state before the state could require it to collect sales taxes.

It would net an estimated $700 million for the state, according to Gruters. Online companies that sell at least 200 items or $100,000 worth of items in Florida would have to collect the tax.

But under Gruters’ bill, much of the money would be given away through a slew of tax cuts, including:

Cutting the tax on rent for commercial properties from 5.7 percent to 3.5 percent, eliminating the ad valorem tax on heavy equipment rented by a dealer, creating a 14-day sales tax holiday for disaster preparedness supplies, and providing a tax cut to insurers that cover remote visits with doctors, known as “telehealth."

Just how much of the $700 million would make it into state and local coffers is unclear, though. The bill still has another committee stop to go before making it to the Senate floor.

“This is probably one of the most important bills of this session,” Gruters said. “I hope we can be the voice of reason and pass this bill.”

By Lawrence Mower
www.tampabay.com

Monday, 01 April 2019 15:14

R. Scott Shalley: Let us compete

Over the past several years, Florida’s retailers have faced remarkable challenges as they navigate through a fast-changing world.

Through it all, the retail industry has shown great resiliency and has asked for little more than a level playing field.

Unfortunately, as e-commerce boomed, a glaring disparity positioned our members and other Florida retailers at a significant disadvantage to online and out-of-state competitors.

Our state now has the opportunity to eliminate a legal loophole that will ensure fair competition and support Florida-based businesses, jobs and communities.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair reversed a decades-old decision permitting out-of-state retailers to evade the collection of sales taxes when shipping goods into states where the retailer had no presence. READ COMPLETE OP ED at floridapolitics.com

R. Scott Shalley is the President & CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

ORMOND BEACH — When Lara Yancey looks around the room at Yancey Music Center, she sees more than guitars, pianos, drums and band instruments.

Each corner of the family-owned business also sparks a memory of countless customers introduced to the finer points of music over a 26-year span that ends when the business closes its doors for the final time on Saturday, bowing to increasing competition from online and big-box retailers.

“We’ve definitely seen generations of customers learning about music in the store,” said Lara, 35, who helps run the family-owned business with her mother, Ginny Yancey. “We’ve definitely seen kids grow up and bring their kids into the store and teach them to love music.”

Together, with the help of other family members and employees, the Yanceys have kept the small, independently owned music store running for 10 years at the Ormond Oaks shopping plaza on South Yonge Street since its founder and patriarch, David Yancey, died at age 56 in 2009 following a battle with cancer. On Friday, loyal customers perused dwindling supplies of accessories, instruments and music books in the store’s final hours.

Eventually, the challenge of competing in a landscape increasingly dominated by online retailers and big box chain stores became insurmountable, Lara said. READ FULL ARTICLE

By Jim Abbott
www.news-journalonline.com

According the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), General Mills announced today a voluntary national recall of five-pound bags of its Gold Medal Unbleached Flour with a better if used by date of April 20, 2020. The recall is being issued for the potential presence of Salmonella which was discovered during sampling of the five-pound bag product. This recall is being issued out of an abundance of care as General Mills has not received any direct consumer reports of confirmed illnesses related to this product.

This recall only affects this one date code of Gold Medal Unbleached Flour five-pound bags. All other types of Gold Medal Flour are not affected by this recall.

Click here to view the FDA recall announcement.

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