Florida TaxWatch predicts higher holiday sales, but news is not all good

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More glad tidings for retailers today, as Florida TaxWatch estimates holiday sales in 2014 to outpace last year.

However, the news may not be all good.

Within the latest Economic Commentary from the independent, nonpartisan government watchdog group is a warning that more consumer spending may not fully benefit Florida retailers, due to tax loopholes on online sales.

“Florida’s retail industry is alive and well,” says TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro, “producing more jobs and bolstering state revenues, which enables our elected officials to fund necessary programs that benefit all Floridians.”

Calabro points out that the state’s retail sales perform better than the rest of the nation, resulting in more retail sales jobs added in Florida than other states. He credits the jobs growth to increased investment in tourism marketing.

In 2013, he says, visitors to the Sunshine State spent more than $76 billion on taxable retail purchases. Sales taxes comprise nearly 75 percent of the state’s General Revenue budget. From September 2013 through August of this year, the Commentary estimates that six retail categories contributed 55 percent of sales and use tax revenues.

“Tourists visiting Florida have a huge impact on our state,” says TaxWatch Chief Economist Jerry Parrish. “The tourism marketing investments Florida has made are paying off in many other industries, not just retail.”

Florida retail sales traditionally peak in March and December. Although a strong holiday retail season may have an overall positive impact on the state budget, Calabro also notes that Florida’s remote tax laws could lessen the impact of those higher sales. Brick and mortar retailers often lose business to online consumers, who purchase items tax-free on the internet, even though sellers are required to remit the sales tax to the Florida Department of Revenue.

“Florida businesses lose out on sales,” Calabro adds. “School children and elderly residents who depend on programs funded through the state budget lose out on services, all because of Florida’s antiquated remote sales law.”

Calabro calls for an update to the state’s sales tax code.

“The businesses that are investing in our state’s communities and providing jobs to hardworking Floridians should not be penalized, and consumers shouldn’t face the burden of remitting their own taxes,” he says.

“It is past time to modernize the way Florida collects sales taxes.”

2014 Holiday Economic Commentary

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.