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Court to DirecTV, Dish: Pay up in taxing case

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An appellate court on Wednesday ordered satellite-television companies to pay legal and other costs in a long-standing tax case they lost earlier this year.

After DirecTV and Dish Network sued, the Florida Supreme Court in April decided satellite TV can be taxed at a higher rate than cable TV.

The case was remanded to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which now has ordered the companies to pony up costs to the Florida Department of Revenue, the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association and others.

The satellite-TV companies had challenged the state’s Communications Services Tax (CST), which taxes cable service at 4.92 percent and satellite at 9.07 percent. (Additional local and other taxes get tacked on; click here for an explanation.)

They said that difference was unconstitutional and asked for a refund. The high court reversed a 1st District panel’s 2-1 decision, which said that taxing the two services differently is unconstitutional.

Then-1st DCA Judge Simone Marstiller, in her dissent, had said there is no discriminatory purpose in the CST because satellite and cable providers are not “similarly situated entities.”

But the Supreme Court’s opinion, by Justice Peggy A. Quince and joined by the other justices, said there was “no evidence from the text of the statute that it was enacted with a discriminatory purpose.”

During oral argument last year, Justice Barbara Pariente had noted that “in the end, we’re really talking about the customer that either gets screwed or helped … It all gets passed on.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at [email protected]

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