The more you consider the potential benefits of state Sen. Joe Gruters’ proposal for Florida to start collecting sales taxes from outside retailers, the more you’re tempted to shake your head and ask two simple questions:
Why is Florida one of only two states — Missouri being the other — that isn’t already doing this?
If Gruters’ legislation doesn’t qualify as a slam-dunk bill for the Florida Legislature to transform into law, what could possibly qualify as one?
The Sarasota Republican’s bill has been steadily making its way through the required lawmaking hoops during the current legislative session. And it sure should be doing so.
For one, Senate Bill 50 would shut off the gushing firehose of sales tax dollars that Florida has been allowing to stream beyond our borders — solely because that money is not being collected from the out-of-state internet retailers racking up business and profits from Floridians.
In addition Gruters’ proposal, much of which has been mirrored in a House bill pushed by Republican state Rep. Chuck Clemons of Alachua County, would make things much fairer for the Florida retailers that must charge and collect sales taxes as part of operating each day — which can put them at a competitive disadvantage against the outside remote businesses.
That’s why Dominic Calabaro, the CEO of Florida TaxWatch — the respected nonpartisan group that’s long served as a government watchdog for Floridians — put it well when he called Gruters’ bill “a win all the way around” for average citizens.
Calabro’s group isn’t the only one backing this bill. It’s a priority for the conservative James Madison Institute. And the liberal Florida Policy Institute. The Florida Chamber, perhaps the leading voice of business in the state. And the Florida Retail Foundation, whose members are already collecting and remitting sales tax on their online sales — including sales to customers in other states.
In fact, we’re not aware of another issue that has such a broad base of support. Everyone can see that this would benefit Floridians immensely, while addressing online fairness.
“It would absolutely level the playing field in our state,” Calabro told the Herald-Tribune Editorial Board.
“It would help Florida’s businesses,” Calabro said. “It would help Florida consumers. It would simply start collecting money that’s lawfully owed but just isn’t being collected.”
Calabro added that while it’s estimated that Florida’s state and local governments are missing out on more than $600 million a year in revenue by not collecting sales tax from remote retailers, that would quickly and dramatically change if Gruters’ bill became law.
For almost all online businesses, it would be simple. Even consumer-to-consumer portals like eBay are now set up to collect sales tax and send it to the state. All Florida has to do is flip the switch.
“In a few years I could easily see it bringing in $2 billion annually,” Calabro said. “There’s no doubt that it would lead to a sizable burden being taken off the backs of Florida’s taxpayers.”
Calabro said he’s “pretty confident” that Gruters’ bill will eventually become law. And make no mistake about it: the people who should be rooting the hardest for that to happen are the sales-taxed-to-death citizens of Florida.
— Sarasota Herald-Tribune