One of the big advantages of shopping online can be that there is no sales tax in Florida. But that could disappear if Florida lawmakers require out-of-state retailers to start collecting sales tax.
There is a growing push in Tallahassee to tax everything we buy online. That would hit many consumers with a tax hike, but it could also help businesses across the Tampa Bay area.
Out-of-state retailers (like Amazon) don't charge sales tax because they have no physical presence in Florida.
But while online shoppers save, our state government loses an estimated $450 million in tax collections.
And state lawmakers have noticed. This year, there is growing support for taxing, and enforcing, online sales across the board.
"It's not a level playing field," said Amanda Hurley, manager of Inkwood Books in Tampa. "We're still doing okay, but some businesses are closing altogether because they just can't compete."
Local retailers have to collect tax. So many say giving out-of-state companies a pass is not fair.
"If they can get it online (without paying sales tax), it will take business out of my store and out of this state," said Jonathan Hornish, a buyer for Feet First.
But many shoppers say we are already taxed enough. With rising gas prices, higher payroll taxes, and a fragile economy, they do not want to pay more.
"I think it is one area where we can still tighten our belts a little bit," said Tampa shopper Mary Heise.
Any new tax is a tough sell with voters and Governor Scott. He is pushing tax cuts for businesses.
That's why supporters of this plan are selling it as more of swap than a hike. If passed, money gained from expanding the sales tax would help reduce taxes elsewhere. It would specifically swap the expanded sales tax for a lower communications tax and a tax break for manufacturing companies. The plan just passed through a Florida Senate committee.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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