TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This week, a big change is coming to online ordering. Up until now, Floridians were required by law to voluntarily submit the tax if it was not collected by the merchant, but a new law now requires out-of-state retailers to collect the tax.
Collecting the sales tax from online purchases has been haphazard at best in Florida. Companies with a physical presence collected it. Others have not.
It’s been a thorn in the side of Florida retailers.
“They are buying large purchases of electronics, large purchases of furniture and those sorts of things,” said Scott Shalley, with the Florida Retail Federation. “And those folks should notice. It’s a tax that was due and it’s a tax that needs to be paid.”
Retailers have been trying to get the tax fully collected for over a decade. Beginning Thursday, July 1, the quest will be over.
“Local retailers are feeling a little relief, knowing they can compete on a level playing field,” Shalley said.
Once signed into law, criticism from gubernatorial hopeful and Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried was swift.
“This governor and his Legislature raised your taxes by over $1 billion,” Fried said.
But the tax was already owed under state law. Consumers were supposed to fill out a form and send in what they owe every three months. Few did.
The AFL-CIO supported the collection until lawmakers decided to use the money to offset what could have been huge increases for unemployment taxes for businesses.
“Working families are going to be paying more in taxes and they get absolutely nothing for it. It doesn’t help their schools. It doesn’t provide health care,” said Rich Templin, with Florida AFL-CIO.
But lawmakers justify the offset, saying that without it, there would be fewer jobs. The legislation also grants amnesty to the millions of Floridians who never filled out the form and paid the tax in the first place.
Florida has been one of only two states with a sales tax that has been leaving the money -- to the tune of $ 1 billion a year -- uncollected. Missouri remains the other.