Internet sales tax bill filed

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This may be the last holiday shopping season that online retailers aren’t required to charge you state sales tax. As Whitney Ray of the Capitol News Service reports, a bill filed in Tallahassee would allow the state to begin collecting the six cent tax from online shops.

You may notice something missing when you make a purchase online. Zeros in the tax column. That’s because online retailers without locations in Florida don’t have to collect state sales tax. But that could soon change. State Senator Gwen Margolis filed a bill to force online retails to collect the tax.

“Our whole revenue source is sales tax in the state of Florida,” said Margolis.

We caught up with Senator Margolis by phone Monday.

“The State of Florida is losing jobs and money because people have been shopping online all year,” said Margolis.

The state’s cut is six cents on the dollar that means when online retailers don’t collect the tax they can offer their customers lower prices than their brick and mortar competitors. The disadvantage has caught the ire of the Florida Retail Federation.

“Let’s move on. Let’s quit competing unfairly based on a tax, that’s not what you do,” said Rick McAllister, President of the Florida Retail Federation.

This is the sixth year this bill has been filed here in Tallahassee, and sponsors believe its time has come. Support among lawmakers is growing, but concerns remain over weather or not collecting the money owed can be considered a tax increase.

Senate President Don Gaetz is against the bill, but says if it were to pass he’d like to see other taxes decreased to keep the collection revenue neutral.

“I certainly as one senator would insist on some kind of tax reduction for the very people whose taxes would be increased,” said Gaetz.

It’s unclear exactly how much money could be collected if the bill passes. Some economists put the annual figure in the 100 million to a billion dollar range. Even though some online stores don’t charge sales tax, the buyer still owes it, but last year just 7,000 online shoppers mailed a check to the Florida Department of Revenue.

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.