Proposed Florida bill to require Internet sales taxes

The Senate Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax intends to come out with a proposal to implement a sales tax on Internet purchases next month.

Committee chair Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said the proposed committee bill will make any tax increase revenue neutral, either by an overall drop in property or sales taxes or by setting aside four sales tax holiday weekends per year.

Conventional retailers and “brick-and-mortar” stores say they face a disadvantage compared to online retailers, which don’t invest in local communities and are exempt from the sales tax.

“It’s wrong and economically senseless for punishing small business owners for investing in Florida,” Daytona Beach resident Rose Anne Tornatore, owner of Wholesale Lighting Inc. told the committee Thursday. “People come in my store and look at things and then they buy it on the Internet and they don’t pay tax.”

Heavyweight Florida business organizations such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Retail Federation are backing the new Internet sales tax, but large online retailers such as favor federal legislation to handle the issue.

Bogdanoff noted that House members working on the bill would also like to see any new Internet sales tax be offset by cuts, but said she favors adding general sales tax holidays because that’s where the burden of the new tax would fall.

“The idea of the sales tax holiday is: That’s how we got it, so that’s how we’ll give it back,” she said, adding that any bill is not likely to come out before the start of the legislative session Jan. 10.

Other members on the panel prefer a different approach, with Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, favoring a slight decrease in the overall sales tax, while Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, would like to see a reduction in property taxes.

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