Debate over online sales taxes heats up

5:06 PM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Florida - It's estimated Floridians are not paying $800 million a year in sales taxes on Internet purchases.

Now the U.S. Senate has passed legislation designed to help states collect sales taxes from online retailers, but the measure faces a tougher test in the U.S. House.

The bill would allow states to force large online retailers to charge sales taxes.

Opponents consider the measure a tax increase.

Supporters say online retailers can get a 7 or 8 percent competitive advantage by not collecting sales taxes and that's not fair to brick-and-mortar stores.

Rick McAllister of the Florida Retail Federation says small businesses are especially hurt by the tax inequity.

"Sixty percent of the people who shop on the Internet today are looking for that advantage and in terms of Florida, we have small businesses who are investing their capital, their life's dreams, they're trying to hire people. They want to do good by their communities and it's just not fair and it's got to be fixed and it's got to be fixed now."

Currently, online retailers are only required to collect sales taxes if they have a physical presence in the state. That means big online retailers like Amazon can operate without charging the tax in Florida and other states.

"It's a tax that's currently due. It's not a new tax. It's a collection issue. All this congressional action does is allow each state to then address it and pass that if they want to do it. It's not a mandate by the federal government. It simply allows each of the states to pass the bill."

McAllister calls it a jobs bill because states would have more money to pump into the economy and create jobs.

"So hopefully we can get this done this year. It's going to be hard. It's going to take a lot of contacts by a lot of people with their congressmen to say, 'Pass this now.'"

Similar bills failed in the Florida Legislature this year.

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