Satellite TV firms ask court to uphold tax ruling


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Satellite television companies this week asked the Florida Supreme Court to uphold a potentially far-reaching ruling against a state law that includes different tax rates for satellite and cable TV.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in June said a higher communications-services tax rate for satellite providers than cable companies violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause and is discriminatory.

That ruling prompted an appeal to the Supreme Court by the Florida Department of Revenue and the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association.

Satellite companies DIRECTV and Dish Network filed a brief Monday arguing that the Supreme Court should approve the appeals-court ruling, which ultimately could lead to the state having to pay refunds.

"At issue here is a differential tax that is a 21st century version of classic economic protectionism,'' the brief said. But the Department of Revenue in a September brief said satellite and cable services are different and, as a result, the state law doesn't violate the Commerce Clause.

"Cable and satellite providers offer different communications services using different technologies," the Department of Revenue argued.

(Disclosure: The News Service of Florida and the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association have a partnership for the Capital Dateline Online news show.)